The Economist.com has an article giving a brief history of the battery and how a great amount of new research is being conducted in "search of the perfect battery." For an electric car to become praticle to large market of consumers better battery technology is needed. The argues that compared to the advancement of computer technology, advances in battery technology has been slow. It does mention that with the advancement of cell phones and lap top computers there have also been advances in batteries that could be used for more practicle electric cars. It's another example of how the market goes a long way in fueling technology advancements. If there had already been a greater demand for cars needing better batteries, it would have been a priority sooner, and perhaps the technology would be further along.
Consumers flocked to cell phones and lap tops, I imagine in part because they are extremely useful in our fast paced lives but because they were already reasonably affordable. We already have cars that are affordable and work just fine -- so why spend money on new batteries for cars when it could be spent elsewhere? Now the money is well spent on battery technology because of high gas prices consumers want something new. Hopefully the market will continue to demand other environmentally healthy choices.