General Electric of the US has invested $4 million in electric car maker Th!nk Nordic ASA of Norway, besides its investment in A123Systems Inc., a Watertown, Massachusetts, based lithium ion battery developer from whom Th!nk will buy batteries, the vital parts of the vehicles.
GE will help both companies commercialise their technologies to make electric transportation practical and affordable. The Norwegian company plans to launch its cars in Norway soon, and then in other countries.
Think's five-seat concept car, the Th!nk Ox, and plug-in electric car Th!nk City were displayed at the 78th International Motor Show in Geneva on 5 March. The Th!nk City has a range of 100 miles and is meant for city driving, as its name suggests; the Th!nk Ox targets the sports utility vehicle segment, but is lighter and more aerodynamic than the usual SUVs.
A123Systems is already plugged into the R&D resources of GE Global Research in New York state for its battery development business. The batteries it will develop for Th!nk's vehicles are a part of this effort. GE has invested more than $20 million in A123Systems already.
Besides GE, A123Systems has a long list of well-known investors. They include consumer products giant Procter & Gamble, Alliance Capital Corp., a big asset management firm, telecom equipment maker Motorola, telecom technology group Qualcomm, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and several venture capital groups, including North Bridge Venture Partners, Sequoia Capital, CMEA Ventures, FA Technology Ventures and OnPoint Technologies.
The battery company is led by its president and CEO David Vieau, a former American Power Conversion executive and Desh Deshpande, an influential technology entrepreneur and visionary who is also chairman of Tejas Networks and Sycamore Networks.
GE's investments were made by GE Energy Financial Services' recently expanded seven-member venture capital group -- with offices in Stamford, CT, San Francisco, and Munich, Germany. GE has invested nearly $100 million in a dozen companies in the past year and a half as part of its 'ecomagination' initiative. This initiative is about helping customers meet environmental challenges and expanding GE's own portfolio of environmentally friendly products.
Says Kevin Walsh, managing director and leader of renewable energy investing at GE Energy Financial Services, "Our work with A123 and Th!nk taps GE's unique combination of venture capital, engineering, process and commercial expertise to help burgeoning, next-generation technology companies bring their innovative products to market."
Adds Mark Little, senior vice president and director of GE Global Research: "Our researchers are improving energy storage and conversion technology as the key enabler of our founder Thomas Edison's vision of electricity as a viable propulsion system for vehicles, ranging from automobiles to industrial vehicles and locomotives."
According to A123Systems' Vieau, "The GE Global Research Centre has been working with A123 on the development of safe and reliable battery-powered transportation, and this has allowed us to accelerate delivery of advanced battery solutions to Th!nk. Our newest collaboration with Th!nk helps us achieve the large-scale production of batteries and integrate them into commercially available electric vehicles."
Th!nk CEO Jan-Olaf Willums says, "We see many important opportunities emerging from our new relationship with GE. This relationship will help Th!nk - the manufacturer of the first highway-approved electric car in mass production - to stay at the forefront of electric vehicle technology."
GE's research includes a $5.6 million US energy department contract to develop smaller, lower cost, higher performing hybrid drive-train motors for hybrid electric vehicles. In addition, GE is working on a $1.2 million project to develop advanced high temperature, high energy density capacitors. GE researchers are also engaged in a US $13 million project with the US Federal Transit Administration and other industrial partners to build a prototype lightweight, battery-dominant zero emissions hybrid fuel cell bus.
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