The US automobile industry has emerged as the biggest innovator in the field of electric vehicles according to a recent analysis of patent and intellectual property data.
The analysis of global patent numbers indicates that US auto manufacturers have moved ahead of the pack in the electric vehicle category, despite reports of declining levels of innovation floated earlier this year by the likes of Thomson Reuters.
According to data compiled by IPWatchdog, it’s actually the conventional giants of the America automobile industry as opposed to groundbreaking upstarts like Tesla who are leading electric vehicle R&D, with both Ford and General Motors Company taking out first and second place, respectively, for IP in the sector.
Ford alone accounts for nearly ⅕ of all electric vehicle IP, with a portfolio of 459 US patents. The combined contribution of Ford and General Motors jointly accounts for nearly ⅓ of all patents in the field.
Japan has also emerged as a leading centre for electric vehicle innovation, with top auto manufacturers Honda and Toyota taking third and fourth place, respectively. Honda has amassed a slew of 272 US patents for electric vehicles, with some of them developed for motorcycles specifically, while Toyota has a total of 201 US patents in the field, including theft protection devices and more-effective methods for collecting kinetic energy during the braking process.
Many of America’s EV patents involve hybrid electric vehicles, which clearly explains the somewhat counterintuitive ranking.
Ford’s slew of EV patents, for example, focuses heavily on plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV), with standout innovations including US Patent 9033075 for an Auto-Seek Electrical Connection for a Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle, a technology which enables battery-powered vehicles to automatically connect themselves to stationary charging elements in the absence of driver oversight.