The report published by the European Patent Office (EPO) and International Energy Agency (IEA) shows that lithium-ion (Li-ion) technology, dominant in portable electronics and electric vehicles, has fuelled most of the battery innovation since 2005.
In 2011, electric vehicles overtook consumer electronics as the biggest growth driver for Li-ion battery-related inventions and industry’s push to mass produce battery electric vehicles (BEVs) saw patent-filing activity for battery-related inventions rise to over 7,000 in 2018.
The report - ‘Innovation in batteries and electricity storage’ - shows that inventions in batteries accounted for 90 per cent of electricity storage patents filed at the EPO between 2000 and 2018. A rapid acceleration in patent-filing activity related to the manufacture of battery cells and other cell-related engineering was also noted in the three years to 2018.
Asian companies in countries including Japan and South Korea are leading the battery tech innovation race. A list of the top 25 applicants in battery tech for 2000-2018 includes six companies in Europe and two in the US. In Europe, companies in Germany are leading the way in electricity storage innovation, filing 5,080 IPFs (international patent families) between 2000 and 2018, well ahead of those in France (1,354) and the UK (652).
Commenting on the findings, Andrew Thompson, partner and patent attorney at Withers & Rogers, said: “The report reveals that the battery innovation sector is maturing quickly and has grown exponentially between 2000-2018. Much of this is driven by significant investment in the development of BEVs for the mass market.
“Efficient and long-lasting electricity storage has been a barrier to the take-up of electric vehicles for many years, but recent improvements in the storage capacity of lithium-ion batteries have made BEVs more appealing to the motorist and more commercially-viable as a result.
“Innovation activity originating in the UK is the third-highest in Europe and there are some extremely exciting developments underway. Investment of £4bn in a new Gigafactory to produce batteries and electric vehicles and energy storage solutions is also fuelling R&D activity. We would expect the proportion of battery tech innovation taking place in the UK to increase in future data sets.”
The report also provides an early indicator of some emerging battery tech that is aiming to address some of the weaknesses of lithium-ion batteries, including supercapacitors and redox flow batteries. In the top five ranking of applicants generating the highest number of IPFs in the field of redox flow technology, Cheshire-based Acal Energy, at number four, is the only European company alongside Japanese, US and South Korean companies.