Ener1, Inc. (NASDAQ:HEV), maker of advanced lithium-ion batteries, today announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with ITOCHU Corporation, a highly diversified global trading company that leads the world market in distribution of specialized equipment and materials needed to produce lithium-ion battery cells.
The purpose of the MOU is to set forth the parameters of the parties' relationship with respect to the introduction of Ener1's products into the Japanese marketplace. ITOCHU, which has strategic partnerships and equity ownership in the Japanese automotive manufacturing community, will serve as Ener1's Japanese sales, marketing and development partner for both the Japanese automotive OEMs as well as the Japanese Tier One suppliers.
The agreement also sets the stage for ITOCHU to introduce Ener1's batteries as an energy storage solution to the solar power markets, where ITOCHU is aggressively seeking to develop its business. Ener1 is currently the only company with the capacity to produce large-format automotive lithium-ion batteries on a commercial scale in the U.S., and currently has the manufacturing footprint in place to produce enough batteries each year to store 1.17 megawatt hours of electricity, with plans that could potentially expand that output to 3.12 megawatt hours annually. The MOU contemplates ITOCHU's possible extension of an equipment line of credit to Ener1 to fund this anticipated expansion.
"Solidifying this partnership opens up new market opportunities for our battery technology in and beyond the automotive sector at a time when we are ready to commence volume production," said Ener1 Chairman and CEO Charles Gassenheimer. "We also feel privileged to have ITOCHU representing Ener1 in the sales and marketing of our cells, modules and battery packs to the Asian auto manufacturers and Tier One supply community. We believe that this will open doors for our U.S. supply of batteries as well as bolster our growing international manufacturing presence."
"Today's announcement marks an important step forward in our six year relationship with Ener1," said Yutaka Kato, Chief Operating Officer of ITOCHU's Industrial Machinery and Solutions Division. "We believe Ener1 is in a unique position to be able to supply the world's automotive market today, with a superior technology that we intend to develop with Japanese systems integrators to provide an advanced energy storage solution for the emerging solar and wind technologies. ITOCHU believes that Ener1 is one of the unique global players that can solve the problem of energy storage between the vehicle and the power grid."
"ITOCHU Corporation has been an incredibly important strategic partner for Ener1 since 2003, offering guidance and support during a period of major growth. This MOU sets forth what is a natural evolution of a close working relationship forged through some challenging times, designed to take advantage of the revolutionary opportunities we see before us today," said Mr. Gassenheimer. "Moreover, many of the key items outlined in the MOU have immediate action plans associated with them which could lead to significant revenue opportunities."