One main obstacle is holding back the electric car, the Wall Street Journal reports: its unfortunate tendency to burst into flames. Lithium-ion batteries, the only kind small and light enough to power the industry’s designs, have a history of overheating in laptops and other consumer electronics. You can’t sell cars that might “ignite and burn up grandma,” one researcher says.
But as gas prices and global warming fears rise, so does demand for electric cars. Automakers from Toyota to GM will be unveiling electric prototypes this weekend, despite the battery problems. Recognizing the opportunity, small US firms have sprung up to compete with Asia’s numerous battery companies. Whichever one solves the overheating issue stands to make a fortune.