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Electrotherm in talks to acquire US-based Firefly

Sohini Das  |  Mumbai/ Ahmedabad 

Gujarat's electric two-wheeler maker Electrotherm India Ltd(EIL) is looking to acquire Illinois based lead acid battery manufacturer Firefly Energy. The US-based company has already filed for bankruptcy in March. EIL owns the popular electric scooter brand 'Yobykes'.

"Yes, negotiations are in a very advanced stage with Firefly. It makes electric batteries, and is a suitable acquisition target for us as there are significant synergies. The company has already filed for bankruptcy in the US," confirmed a highly placed source in the company. However, he refused to divulge details on the probable deal size, but Electrotherm could be purchasing Firefly's assets.

Firefly has a loan of over $6 million with PNC Bank. Peoria City and County are the guarantors for the loan who are now moving forward with an agreement to allow Electrotherm to buy Firefly's assets including its patents for batteries. Sources in Electrotherm said that they are cautiously optimistic that a deal would work out whereby EIL would be able to acquire Firefly's assets.

The Illinois company had developed a carbon graphite foam lead-acid battery that can be used in the military and trucking industry.

India's Electrotherm,on the other hand, is working on developing what could be India's first electric motorcycle. It already has the technology in-house including the drive-train and the battery that powers these vehicles. The company now needs to upgrade these to suit the power required for motorcycles and design the chassis for the vehicle.

Meanwhile, Electrotherm has also developed the alpha-weaver technology based batteries last year that now power its electric scooters. It has taken two years to develop the alpha-weaver batteries indigenously. Earlier, Electrotherm would have to import around 100,000 batteries packs from China. The 'alpha-weaver' battery, as against the lead-acid batteries increase the travel range of the electric bikes from 70 kilometers(km) for a single charge to over 105 km, at the same time bringing down the charging time from eight to four hours. These batteries are also lighter by six kilograms compared to conventional batteries, EIL claimed.

The Firefly deal could also help Electrotherm realise its plans to enter the US-EU markets. Company's managing director Shailesh Bhandari had indicated earlier this year that EIL is planning to develop vehicles that would meet the regulatory norms in these markets.

EIL has sold over 75,000 scooters since its launch in February 2006. It has a manufacturing facility in Kutch with a capacity of 2,88,000 vehicles per annum and sold around 20,000 scooters in 2009-10. It plans to sell 40,000 vehicles in 2010-11.

First Published: Fri, September 17 2010. 00:16 IST