Founder and CEO, ALTe
Chosen because: Thomas saw how the high cost of lithium ion batteries ballooned the cost of the Tesla Roadster to more than $100,000 when he led the automaker's short-lived tech center in suburban Detroit. After leaving the startup, Thomas applied that lesson when he founded ALTe Powertrain Technologies in 2008.
ALTe sells modular plug-in hybrid powertrain systems developed in-house that the company says can boost fuel economy 80 to 200 percent when retrofitted to existing vehicles. Thomas, 48, hopes that, some day, new cars rolling off automaker assembly lines will be powered by his firm's plug-in hybrid powertrain systems. In the meantime, the firm is targeting some 11 million to 12 million fleet vehicles driving American roads.
Quote: "We like to emphasize that we're a powertrain company, not a car company," Thomas told Crain's Detroit Business in 2009. "We want to supply ultimately to car companies, but initially we'll convert the vehicles they've already produced into range-extended electric vehicles."