Boston-Power Pulls In $125M, Shifting Focus and Most Operations to China to Get Its Battery Tech into Electric Vehicles

9/20/11Follow @xconomy

Just after I wrote that no Massachusetts-based cleantech companies inked funding last month, Westborough-based Boston-Power bucks that trend for September.

The developer of advanced lithium-ion battery technology is announcing today that it has raised $125 million. The deal, which brings Boston-Power’s total funding pot to more than $316 million, has some serious implications for the company’s place in Massachusetts and its executive structure, though.

Beijing-based GSR Ventures led the round, which also included Oak Investment Partners, Foundation Asset Management, and grants, tax incentives, and other funding from the Chinese government, Boston-Power founder and now international chairman Christina Lampe-Onnerud says (she was executive chairman prior to the transaction announced today). GSR managing director Sonny Wu will now chair Boston-Power’s board of directors.

“We are embracing the electric vehicle opportunity in China,” Lampe-Onnerud, an Xconomist, told me over lunch Monday. While the vast majority of Boston-Powers operations will be moving to China (read on for more on this), she herself has elected to stay in Massachusetts.

The funding announcement follows last week’s news that Boston-Power CEO Keith Schmid, chief financial officer Steve Byram and vice president of marketing Sally Bament were leaving the company. Lampe-Onnerud says those moves were part of Boston-Power’s overall plan to shift its operations and most of its product marketing to China, where the company is building a new factory. Boston-Power will be searching over the next few months to fill the CEO, CFO, and marketing positions in China; meanwhile, “between the board and management team, we’re hosting those functions,” Lampe-Onnerud says.

What’s staying in Massachusetts, in addition to Lampe-Onnerud, are the R&D, designing, and fine-tuning of the company’s battery cells. All of these operations will take place in the Westborough office, while China-based teams will focus on developing the battery technology for customer applications. Boston-Power will be reducing its roughly 80-person workforce in the Bay State by about 35 percent, as those functions shift abroad, says Lampe-Onnerud. The global sales staff will also remain in Westborough, though Boston-Power expects most of its customers to come from China. The company plans to … Next Page »

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