Chinese-funded EV startup buys tech firm headed by former Tesla executive

BEIJING, Oct 19 (Reuters) - SF Motors Inc, a California-based electric vehicle (EV) unit of China’s Chongqing Sokon Industry Group Co Ltd, on Thursday said it has bought an EV and battery tech firm headed by former Tesla Inc executive Martin Eberhard for $33 million.

The acquired company, InEVit Inc, will become a wholly owned subsidiary of SF Motors, one of an array of Chinese-funded EV startups in China and the United States.

InEVit will continue to operate as a standalone technology firm licensing EV and battery know-how to global automakers. Eberhard, who has worked with SF Motors as an advisor, will become SF Motors’ chief innovation officer and vice chairman of the board.

“In this new role, Eberhard will primarily focus on technology innovation, product development, product positioning and branding – all with the goal of helping SF Motors meet global EV demands,” SF Motors said in a statement.

“InEVit’s expertise, patented technologies and manufacturing techniques will be leveraged to help SF Motors to rapidly and profitably scale e-powertrain production for its own future products, and will look to license this technology to other automakers to help speed zero emission vehicle proliferation across the industry.”

SF Motors is the latest Chinese-funded firm to join a boom in EV development.

Established by Sokon Industry, a small automaker in Chongqing producing low-cost micro commercial vans, SF Motors recently established a U.S. research and development (R&D) centre in Silicon Valley and an R&D branch in Ann Arbor, Michigan, as well as branches in Germany, Japan and China.

Sokon Industry also produces and sells crossover sport-utility vehicles (SUVs). (Reporting by Norihiko Shirouzu; Editing by Christopher Cushing)