Gesture control, devices that recognize different people, and tricks to make a screen feel as if it has physical buttons could be coming to your gadgets.
By Will Knight
Why: Lithium-ion batteries make electric cars possible at mass-market prices.
Key innovation: Nanostructured electrodes result in lithium batteries more durable and safer than those in cell phones and laptops.
A123 develops and manufactures lithium-ion batteries that are safer than those in mobile phones and laptops and use less expensive elements. The materials are structured at the nanoscale in a way that enables them to charge and discharge quickly, making them well suited for use in electric vehicles and in electrical-grid storage.
A123 started off by selling batteries for use in rechargeable power tools, but it has recently made a major push into electric vehicles. Its first contract for the vehicle market was to supply the battery packs for electric buses, and commercial-vehicle makers have been its largest customers to date. Fisker has selected A123 to supply battery packs for its luxury electric cars.
Last fall, with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, A123 opened a new manufacturing plant in Michigan; it’s the largest lithion-ion battery plant in the United States. The company is also active in the emerging market for grid storage and has become the world’s largest provider of lithium-ion batteries to electrical-grid operators.
Challenges and Next Steps:
A123 has established a niche in the commercial-vehicles market but has yet to land a contract with a major passenger-car maker, having been beaten out for the Chevy Volt contract by larger competitor LG Chem. It is not yet clear whether lithium-ion batteries will remain the best choice for the electric-vehicle market: other companies are pursuing alternative chemistries such as nickel–metal hydride and liquid lithium-ion.