The evolution of electric vehicle in 21 century: patent data as indicators of technological development

Type de publication:

Conference Paper


Gerpisa colloquium, Paris (2015)


Electric vehicle (EV), patent analysis, Technological Paths


Automobile industry across the world is undergoing structural change. Advances in emission regulations and the effects of oil price fluctuations are forcing carmakers towards new product programmes that use new technologies in order to increase the energy efficiency of vehicles, reduce emissions and decrease environment impacts. Considering current environmental and energy problems, electric vehicles (EVs) - Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV), Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV), Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV) - have been proposed as an alternative solution to internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEVs). EVs is around three times more efficient than traditional vehicles based on ICEVs and have no direct exhaust fumes or dangerous pollutants. Even HEV’s emissions are significantly lower than ICEV´s. Moreover, the electricity to propel the EV can be obtained from renewable sources. However, the components of EVs have been going through a technological development and there is no predominant path. The lack of range and of refueling infrastructure are another open challenge. On market side, the major challenge is costs in that EVs components are expensive (battery is the most one). On the other hand, the uncertainties and challenges for the development, production and sales of EV can be a window of opportunities for companies that are committed to make efforts for Research and Development (R&D), production and marketing. The paper explore these questions by analyzing the technological development of EVs in the last 20 years (1994- 2013) through an approach based on patent data indicators. Four main questions have been addressed: What has been the evolution of patent publications related to EV? What has been the most patented companies/institutions? What was the geographical distribution of publications during that period? and finally, what have been the most patented technologies? The online platform Questel Orbit IP Business Intelligence was the search method adopted to answer such questions. Results of the study appointed to an expressive evolution of publications related to EV technology patents. Concerning to the patent holders, the largest publishers patent have been the automotive traditional companies, especially the Japanese (Toyota, Honda and Nissan) and the American (Ford and General Motors). However, it is observed the rise of the Korean (Hyundai, KIA) and Chinese (Chery, BYD) automakers as relevant players. The automotive industry is undergoing a global restructuring characterized by new players performance, such as electrical and electronic companies (LG, Samsung, Hitachi and Panasonic). About the location of patents, the concentration remains in the US, EU and Japan and has a strong correlation with the location of the developed markets for the EV. In the technological field, there is no clearly defined technological path. It was observed patent publications dispersed in a wide range of components, however are expressive the deposits of technologies related to HEV.

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