The world’s largest consumer technology event is a logical place for the power company’s economic development and innovation efforts. Not only has CES increasingly included automakers with ties to Alabama showcasing their latest electric vehicles and other innovations, but work in smart home technologies, advanced manufacturing, logistics and more align with Alabama Power initiatives.
“Innovation is a top focus area for Alabama Power as we continue to look at how advanced technology can help improve our customer experience and operations,” said John Smola, director of Business Transformation and Administration. “We are excited to kick off this new year and decade with some of the most cutting-edge companies in the world.”
This year, as in years past, Alabama’s automakers are key presenters at CES. Monday, Mercedes-Benz kicked off the 2020 event with the unveiling of its VISION AVTR concept vehicle. The all-electric show car was developed in collaboration with the filmmakers of “Avatar,” and not only demonstrates the future of vehicles but what Mercedes said is a look at the connection between human and machine.
“It is my great pleasure to announce the global partnership between Mercedes-Benz and the ‘Avatar’ films,” said Ola Källenius, chairman of the board of Daimler AG and Mercedes-Benz AG. “I would like to present the first result of this partnership: the Mercedes-Benz VISION AVTR – which translates to ‘Advanced Vehicle Transformation.’ A visionary car that points far into the future.
Källenius said the car showcases “new ways of moving people through the environment – sideways, like a crab, for instance. It takes sustainability to new levels through a fully recyclable battery, which is based on an organic cell chemistry and doesn’t need materials like nickel or cobalt.”
The electrification of Mercedes’ fleet of vehicles is of particular importance to Alabama officials as the automaker’s plant in Tuscaloosa County prepares to produce electric versions of the models made there. A battery plant for those vehicles is being built in Bibb County.
Just as electric vehicles are part of the automotive industry’s future, they are also part of Alabama’s economic development.
“Technology is a key part of the electric vehicle evolution, as more automakers roll out models with longer-distance batteries, smarter features and autonomous capabilities,” said Cedric Daniels, Electric Transportation manager for Alabama Power. “CES is the perfect opportunity to go see what is next and how we can continue to educate our customers on the benefits of going electric.”
Alabama Power’s support of Techstars and other initiatives designed to grow the innovation economy in the state is part its CES participation. The continued expansion of its Smart Neighborhood developments around the state will benefit from technologies showcased at CES.
“We will be connecting with companies and startups who deliver products and services that align with our innovation strategy, which includes smart cities technology, connectivity and electric vehicles,” Smola said.
These companies and startups will be strong candidates for the recently announced Techstars Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator that will host its first cohort later this year. The application process for the first cohort began Jan. 6 and will be open through April.
At the heart of it all is economic development. Statewide economic development organizations have identified innovation and technology as key areas for recruitment and expansion.
So has Alabama Power.
“Alabama has the right tools, resources and ecosystems in place to help tech-based businesses thrive, and our mission at CES is to show these companies why they should call the state home,” said Blair King, Economic Development manager for Alabama Power.
Alabama NewsCenter’s Katie Bolton contributed to this report.