The Best Inventions of 2021
November 10, 2021 6:15 AM EST

Electric-vehicle sales were up 160% globally in the first half of 2021, but they still face a major roadblock: EVs can take several hours to charge, making them fine for many everyday drivers, but not so great for taxi drivers or truckers with fares to collect and schedules to keep. One answer lies in battery ­swapping­—an EV pulls into a station, its depleted battery is removed, and a fully charged unit is popped in. Many dismiss that approach in part because it’s difficult to service EVs from multiple manufacturers. But San ­Francisco­–based Ample thinks it has the ­answer­, in the form of universal modular batteries. The company’s big breakthrough, says co-founder John de Souza, is a patented design that allows Ample’s batteries to work with cars from any manufacturer, in terms of both physical and chemical compatibility. Ample is already operating six stations in its hometown and is working with five major auto­makers. —Alex Fitzpatrick

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