The Rise of Electric Vehicles: Understanding the EV Industry Growth through Patent Trends

The world is now embracing the rise of electric vehicles.

The global market for electric vehicles (EVs) is projected to reach over $802.81 billion by 2027, with a compound annual growth rate of 22.6%.

Currently, Asia-Pacific is the highest contributor, with its revenue projected to reach about $357.81 billion by 2027. It is closely followed by North America, with an estimated revenue contribution of over $194.2 billion.

The rapid growth of the EV market is partly due to various developments from other closely linked sectors. For example, some governments have introduced policies that aid the production and development of electric vehicles through grants, subsidies, and even tax rebates.

These developments led to the major adoption of electric cars within the last decade. In 2010, it was estimated that there were only over 17,000 EVs globally. Today, there are over 8 million units on the road. This number is expected to grow to a staggering 115 million within the next decade.

To better understand the development of the electric vehicle industry, one can take a closer look at the patents granted to EV manufacturers. Patent trends are significant as they can paint a clear picture of how the industry is changing — from new products invented, to research and development, up to dissemination and market development.

Here are three key patent trends that help provide details on where the EV industry is heading.

1. An Increase in Patents Related to Battery Technology

The growth of the EV market has led to an increase in battery technology innovations. This is also due to efforts by many governments to reduce the carbon emissions from vehicles. One example is the UK, which aims to end the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2030. In fact, the UK government has invested in building a lithium extraction plant for electric vehicle batteries.

Across Europe, more patents are being filed related to battery technology. The European Patent Office (EPO) reported a 14.8% increase in the number of patents filed related to electricity storage from 2005 to 2018. This is significant compared with other technology areas that only averaged a 3.5% increase.

About 88% of the patents filed related to energy storage are focused on improving battery technology. It’s also worth noting that since 2011, the annual number of patents filed globally related to EV batteries has exceeded those focused on electronics.

2. The Race for Patent Grants on EV Charging Stations

The adoption of electric vehicles has also led to an increase in the number of patents filed related to vehicle charging stations. This doesn’t mean, however, that many of these have been granted. There are reports of rising patent applications that have been denied or remain pending for being “technically vague.” This poses problems as abstract ideas aren’t patent-eligible.

One example is a patent application from 2017 that claims to allow for wireless EV charging. The claim, however, lacks technical details and has not proposed solutions to overcome possible limitations. This is possibly why the patent still hasn’t been granted.

Reports also show that not all of the patents filed related to EV charging stations are from vehicle manufacturers. Many are from software companies focused on other industries.

James Dyson, the founder of Dyson Ltd., which recently launched an electric vehicle, sheds light on the situation. He says that many companies, including Dyson, tend to file broad patents in the beginning, allowing the claims to be “deliberately light on specifics” as a way to win the race to obtain patent grants.

There are still many manufacturers that have been successful in their patent filings, however. In 2021 alone, Ford, Audi, Hyundai, and Toyota were granted patents related to charging electric or hybrid vehicles.

3. A Decrease in Patent Filings for Steering Systems

The patents filed related to automotive steering systems have steadily grown from 2010-2017. This trend ceased in 2018, however, and the number of patents filed has continued to decrease.

The rise began with close to 6,000 patents filed in 2010, reaching its peak at almost 12,000 in 2017. This dipped to over 7,000 in 2019. In 2020, only about 600 patents were filed related to steering systems. This means that there have been no significant developments in this area for years, and most steering systems have largely remained the same.

There are still some electric vehicle manufacturers that have filed for steering system patents, however. One example is Tesla, which has filed for a power assist steering system in 2019 to improve the efficiency of its other sub-systems. The technology claims that it is more compact, yet also more energy-efficient.

This is an upgrade from the old power steering system used in Tesla Model X units built before 2017. Many of which have been recalled due to manufacturing issues.

The Importance of Patent Trends

It’s good to take note of patent trends as they help paint a clearer picture of how certain industries are evolving.

Patents play a key role in protecting a company’s products, processes, and innovations by stopping others from manufacturing or selling them. Since the technology and automotive industries are rapidly changing, manufacturers also race to file patents in an attempt to protect their assets and gain an upper hand in the market.

The current patent trends in the development of electric vehicles show that many countries, such as those in Europe, are furthering their efforts to innovate as a way to reach environmental goals. The trends also show that many companies try to file broad patents as a strategy, which may not be successful as some are too technically vague.

Other electric vehicle aspects, such as those related to steering systems, have largely remained unchanged. This is shown in the decrease in patent filings, with some major companies such as Tesla only filing for patents related to manufacturing and safety upgrades.

By studying patent trends, one understands that patents not only provide protection for companies. They can also be a great way to explain significant market shifts and predict the future of certain industries.

Categories: Patents