Ex-Chrysler CEO Touts Electrovaya

Former Chrysler head Tom LaSorda sees opportunities for Toronto-based Electrovaya to supply electric automakers in Europe and Asia with lithium-ion batteries.

TORONTO (CP) -- Former Chrysler head Tom LaSorda sees opportunities for Toronto-based Electrovaya Inc. to supply electric automakers in both Europe and Asia with lithium-ion batteries.

"In Europe it's a big space. I believe we'll make contacts there, as well as throughout Asia," LaSorda, now a director and special adviser at Electrovaya, said in an interview Tuesday.

"There's a lot of battery suppliers in Asia. However, there's a lot of car companies looking (for suppliers) as well. So I would say, yes, we'll approach a number of companies to see their level of interest."

At the beginning of this month, Electrovaya was a relatively unknown manufacturer of rechargeable batteries.

But, its shares have more than quadrupled since March 1 with a contract to supply Chrysler with batteries for 140 electric Dodge Rams and news that LaSorda would join the company.

LaSorda said he had nothing to do with the Chrysler contract.

On Tuesday, Electrovaya's shares gained another 39 percent or 96 cents to $3.42 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

LaSorda acknowledged that he hadn't heard of Electrovaya when he was approached to join its board, but was attracted to its emission-and toxin-free manufacturing process, its suite of products and its lack of debt.

He said he expects demand for electric vehicles to grow rapidly as commercial versions become available towards the end of this year, and he'll use his auto industry expertise to help Electrovaya CEO Sankar Das Gupta take advantage of this.

LaSorda said he will "assist Sankar and his team in the major negotiations and major deal arrangements with various customers in the different types of spaces we'd want to go into, whether it be auto, storage or other commercial-based products."

Nissan Motor Co. announced Tuesday its new electric car, the Leaf, will cost just over US$25,000 in the U.S. when it hits showrooms in December. General Motors will also begin selling its rechargeable Chevrolet Volt later this year.

There is little doubt this trend will be supported by the policies of governments around the world, which are looking to boost the troubled auto industry and reduce vehicle emissions by investing in electric-vehicle technology.

U.S. President Barack Obama has said he wants one million electric vehicles on the road by 2015 and has invested billions of dollars in General Motors, Chrysler, Ford and Nissan to help accomplish that goal.

Das Gupta said believes Obama's goal is "doable."

Besides lithium-ion batteries, Electrovaya also builds storage systems for electricity created by renewable power sources like wind, solar and tidal. The company has manufacturing facilities in Canada and the U.S. and customers around the world.

LaSorda, who is from Windsor, Ont., has worked in the auto industry for more than 30 years, including a 23-year stint at General Motors. He most recently served as president and vice-chairman at Chrysler, leaving last June when the company was acquired by Italian automaker Fiat Group SpA after it emerged from bankruptcy protection in the U.S.

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