3 Companies Innovating the Way We Move

Changing the way we get around isn't an easy task. After all, we're Americans. We do what we want. If that means you want to drive an SUV on your 50-mile commute by yourself every day, well by golly, that's what we're going to do.

But as the price of gasoline goes up, consumers are starting to reconsider how we get around. Even the president and Congress have taken notice of alternative transportation sources. This week, I outlined five stocks that will benefit from a transition to natural gas fuel, but now it's time to take this revolution a step further and see who is going to make electric vehicles happen.

Infrastructure counts
The hidden key to electric vehicles is really the fueling station that people will use to top off their rides when the need arises, in addition to home plug-ins. That infrastructure is being built rather quickly because all it takes is a spot you can park and the right charger.

Aerovironment (Nasdaq: AVAV  ) is a company building momentum in the car-charger space. The company recently signed deals for to supply chargers for public networks in Dallas and Hawaii. It will also be the preferred charger of BMW's all-electric ActiveE.

The charger market has competition from such big names as General Electric (NYSE: GE  ) , but Aerovironment has built an impressive list of partners in a short time. NRG Energy (NYSE: NRG  ) , which testified before the Senate this week about the importance of an electric vehicle infrastructure, is installing Aerovironment chargers around Dallas/Fort Worth in its eVgo charging "Ecosystem."

For a quick peek at how this build-out is taking place, you can download the ChargePoint app from Coulomb Technologies. It's just one network of chargers, but you can check where chargers are and if they're available. For example, 19 chargers are currently in use around the country.

Now for the fun stuff    
Once we have a way to charging system in place, it's a little easier to envision spending the extra money on an electric vehicle. And the company leading the charge is Tesla Motors (Nasdaq: TSLA  ) , which makes the sleek Roadster and is coming out with a four-door Model S next year. While other electric vehicles struggle to get 100 miles per charge, Tesla is advertising nearly 300 miles on one charge. And if the company's technology road map comes true, we should expect a fast-charging battery before long.

Toyota (NYSE: TM  ) and Panasonic (NYSE: PC  ) have literally bought into Tesla's technology. Toyota is working on the Rav4 EV, which will be powered by a Tesla battery, power electronics components, motor, gearbox, and software. It may be this supplier role -- more than its own vehicles -- that could bring Tesla future success.

Last but not least is the company that has a chance to change the world -- or crash and burn in the process. Quantum Technologies (Nasdaq: QTWW  ) is providing drivetrain technology for plug-in electric vehicles such as the Fisker Karma and Ford F-150.

And when we're ready to take a big leap forward, Quantum is developing equipment for a hydrogen infrastructure for vehicles. It currently has eight hydrogen refueling stations in the U.S.

Quantum has its hands in a lot of emerging industries like electric vehicles, hydrogen fueling, and solar vehicle charging, but its financial house isn't exactly in order. Last quarter, the company lost $7.8 million and has just $2.5 million in cash on its balance sheet. If the company survives, I like the markets it plays in, but that's a big "if" right now. But what would innovation be without a little risk?

Foolish bottom line
Aerovironment, Tesla Motors, and Quantum Technologies are three of the most innovative companies in the electric vehicle business right now and have a chance to change the way we drive.

Keep track of your favorite stocks with our free My Watchlist. If you'd prefer that we come to you, sign up for My Fool Daily or FoolWatch Weekly and we'll send you stories about companies on your watchlist.

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Fool contributor Travis Hoium owns shares of Aerovironment and would love to buy a Tesla Roadster or Fisker Karma. You can follow Travis on Twitter at @FlushDrawFool, check out his personal stock holdings or follow his CAPS picks at TMFFlushDraw.

Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended AeroVironment. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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