Hydrogen Fuel Cells for Electric Vehicles Patent Landscape 2022

Featured image of Patent landscape report on Hydrogen fuel cells.
The growth in patenting activity among German vehicle manufacturers and the impressive IP recent developments of Chinese companies are indicative of renewed interest in hydrogen-based fuel cell electric vehicles (HFCEV) as one solution, along with battery electric vehicles (BEV), to tackle the issues faced by automakers.
Publication October 2022

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Report’s Key Features

  • Describing the global patenting trends,including time evolution of patent publications, countries of patent filings, etc.Featured image of Patent landscape report on Hydrogen fuel cells.
  • Identifying the main patent assignees and the IP newcomers in the different segments of the supply chain.
  • Determining the status of their patenting activity (active / inactive) and their IP dynamics (ramping up, slowing down, steady).
  • Identifying the IP collaborations (patent co-filings) and IP transfers (changes of patent ownership).
  • Patents categorized into more than 20 segments: fuel cell technologies (PEMFC, SOFC, MCFC, PAFC, AFC, etc.), cell materials and components (electrodes, membranes, catalysts, gas diffusion layer, bipolar plates, electrolytes, etc.), stacking of fuel cells, fuel cell system, thermal management, pressure management, etc.
  • IP profile of 15 key players: patent portfolio overview (IP dynamics, segmentation, legal status, geographic coverage, etc.), IP collaborations, and recent patenting activity.
  • Excel database containing all patents analyzed in the report, including patent segmentations and hyperlinks to an updated online database.

Access all KnowMade reports on patent analysis on Energy technologies.

Read our description of the patent landscape for more details on this type of analysis.

Context of the report

Nowadays, the global transportation sector represents about one quarter of all direct carbon dioxide emissions. To remedy this, during the past few years, several national and supranational governments around the world have instigated policy regulations and financial incentives regarding research and development programs in order to help green hydrogen production, hydrogen infrastructures and fuel cell-powered electric vehicles thrive in the future. Moreover, numerous R&D programs, strategic alliances and partnerships among vehicle manufacturers, equipment suppliers (OEM) and hydrogen- and fuel cell-related companies have blossomed, giving a strong insight into the structuring and strengthening of this specific market.

The last 10 years we witnessed a shift in technological interest in the automotive sector, with companies concentrating their R&D efforts and patenting activities on battery technologies. But with some as yet unresolved issues for electric vehicles (mileage autonomy, charging speed and safety to name a few), there was a revival in interest in fuel cell technology patent filings in the mid-2010s, with a CAGR of 18% between 2015 and 2021.

In this context, Knowmade is releasing a new report which aims to provide a comprehensive view of the patent landscape related to hydrogen-based fuel cells for terrestrial electric vehicles (cars, trucks and buses), from electrolyte and electrode materials to the fuel cell system and vehicle integration, segmented into fuel cell technologies – such as proton exchange membrane (PEMFC), solid oxide (SOFC) and molten carbonate (MCFC).

Patent landscape analysis is a powerful tool to understand global hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles competitive and technological environment. Overall, patenting activity (patent filings) reflects the level of R&D investment made by a country or player in a specific technology, while providing clues as to the technology readiness level reached by the main IP players. What’s more, the technology coverage along the value chain and the geographical coverage of the patent portfolios are closely related to the business strategy of IP players.

Bar chart showing patenting activity in fuel cell field since 2020.

A sector boosted by the emergence of newcomers

With more than 30,000 patent families published in the past 20 years, hydrogen-based fuel cell technologies for road transportation (cars, trucks, buses) is a sector that has caught the attention of a lot of companies around the world. As in a lot of innovation-led industry sectors, Japanese players historically took over the fuel cell-related technological field in the 2000s, taking a quantitative approach in patenting activity. Players such as car makers (Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Mitsubishi, etc.), equipment suppliers (Aisin Seiki, Denso, Soken, etc.), device manufacturers (Panasonic/Sanyo, Hitachi, Toshiba, Murata/Sony, etc.) or material suppliers (Toppan Printing, Nippon Steel, Toray Industries, Sumitomo, etc.) have been active all along the value chain, from electrode materials and fuel cell stacks to system integration into vehicles. Other players have joined their Japanese counterparts in patent filings in that period, like US General Motors and Ford, German Daimler, Volkswagen/Audi, Bosch and BMW, and South Korean Hyundai/Kia, Samsung and LG. More recently, the patenting activity is led by German vehicle manufacturers and Chinese newcomers, as a way to develop and diversify their businesses, for the former – Volkswagen/Audi, Bosch or BMW – and to take some market shares and develop fuel cell technologies, for the latter – vehicle manufacturers Grove Hydrogen Automotive, FAW China First Automotive Works, Dongfeng Motor, Yutong Bus or SAIC Group, and product devices sellers SinoHytec, Weichai Group, FTXT Energy Technology or Shanghai Shenli High Technology.

Patent segmentation

The patent families have been categorized according to the fuel cell technologies (PEMFC, SOFC, MCFC, PAFC, AFC, etc.), cell materials and components (electrodes, membranes, catalysts, gas diffusion layer, bipolar plates, electrolytes, etc.), management and control (thermal management, pressure management, etc.), stacking of fuel cells, fuel cell system, hydrogen storage, etc.

List of patent assignees according to analyst segmentation.

IP profiles: focus on the top IP players’ patent portfolios

The patent portfolio of 15 companies is analyzed: Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Hyundai/Kia, General Motors, Panasonic, Volkswagen/Audi, Bosch, BMW, Grove Hydrogen Automotive, Shen-Li High Tech (SinoFuelCell), FAW, Weichai, Sunrise Power, Cellcentric. For each player, the hydrogen fuel cell patent portfolio is analyzed to provide an overview of its strengths, its potential for reinforcement, the level of IP activity, IP collaborations and recent patenting activity.

Useful Excel patent database

This report also includes an extensive Excel database with the 30,000+ patent families (inventions) analyzed in this study. This useful patent database allows for multi-criteria searches and includes patent publication numbers, hyperlinks to an updated online database (original documents, legal status, etc.), priority date, title, abstract, patent assignees, patent’s current legal status, and 20+ segments (PEMFC, SOFC, MCFC, AFC, electrodes, membranes, catalysts, gas diffusion layer, stacking of fuel cells, fuel cell system, hydrogen storage, thermal management, pressure management, etc.).

Extract of patent report content on Hydrogen fuel cell for electric vehicles.

Companies mentioned in the report (non-exhaustive)

Industrials: AGC, Aisin Seiki, Anderson Industries, Asahi Kasei, BAIC Group (Beijing Automotive), Blue World Technologies, BMW, Bosch, Canon, Cellcentric, Chery Automobile, Daimler, Denso, Dongfeng Motor, FAW (China First Automobile Works), Ford, FTXT Energy Technology, General Motors, Grove Hydrogen Automotive, Hitachi Group, Honda, Hylium Industries, Hyundai/Kia, J&L Tech, Kolon Industries, LG Group, Mitsubishi Group, Murata Manufacturing/Sony, New Keli Chemical, Nippon Steel, Nissan Group, Nuvoton, Panasonic/Sanyo, Refire Technology, Renault, Samsung Group, Schaeffler Technologies, S-FuelCell, Shanghai Shenli High Technology, Sinohytec, Soken, Sumitomo Group, Sunrise Power, Suzuki Group, Toppan Printing, Toray Industries, Toshiba Group, Toyota Group, Vitesco Technologies, Volkswagen/Audi, Weichai Group, Yutong, etc.

Research organizations: AIST (National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science & Technology), Beijing University, CEA (Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission), Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics – CAS, Jilin University, KAIST (Korea Advanced Institute of Science &Technology), KIER (Korea Institute of Energy Research), Seoul National University, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, South China University of Technology, Tongji University, Tsinghua University, Wuhan University of Technology, Zhejiang University, etc.