Stellantis and Mercedes-Benz place their pawns in the solid-state battery game. Here’s what the patents tell us

SOPHIA ANTIPOLIS, France – February 16, 2022 | New rules and regulations on vehicle CO2 emissions are forcing car manufacturers to accelerate their transition towards electric vehicles. Electric vehicle performances (autonomy, speed, safety) mainly rely on batteries. That’s why car manufacturers are massively investing in the battery field, either by improving their own R&D and intellectual property (IP) developments, by collaborating with leading material suppliers and battery manufacturers, or by investing in promising start-ups operating on new battery technologies. Solid-state batteries (SSB) – using solid electrodes and a solid electrolyte – are among the trendiest technologies envisioned as an upgrade on conventional lithium-ion batteries. This is a fast-moving domain where new materials, new pure-play companies and new strategic alliances arise every month.

Solid-state battery developments are accelerating, and major companies are announcing their arrival on the market in the next 2 years. That means intensive intellectual property (IP) developments at all levels of the value chain (electrolyte, electrode, cell, pack and system). All year long, Knowmade’s analysts investigate the patenting activities related to solid-state batteries through a dedicated Quarterly Patent Monitor. Today, the solid-state battery patent corpus counts for more than 12,000 patent families (inventions), of which more than 680 were published in the last quarter of 2021 alone. “Patent watch enables you to detect opportunities and risks early in terms of technology and intellectual property, and to react promptly and accordingly”, says Fleur Thissandier, PhD, Technology and Patent Analyst Batteries & Materials at Knowmade. “By monitoring patenting activities, you perceive the strategies and technologies the leading companies are adopting, identify the newcomers that go under the radar, and uncover valuable start-up companies that own fundamental patents on groundbreaking technologies. This can help for making strategic investment and/or collaboration choices to ensure your position tomorrow”, affirms Fleur Thissandier.

Stellantis (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and PSA Group merger) and Mercedes-Benz (consumer brand of Daimler) have built several strong partnerships with key start-ups and battery manufacturers, thus securing their access to key technologies and intellectual properties (IP) that could strengthen their market position. In fact, for the moment, both companies have a small patent portfolio on solid-state batteries. Stellantis does not yet have any patents on solid-state batteries (SSB), while Mercedes-Benz holds a few – all filed under the Daimler name. Daimler emerged in 2014 in the solid-state batteries patent landscape and today holds 11 patent families (inventions), comprising 1 European granted patent and 6 pending patent applications. Daimler’s SSB patents pertain to solid electrolyte materials (sulfide glass ceramic, sulfide inorganic solid electrolyte coated with inorganic-organic hybrid polymer or ion-conducting glass, PEO-based polymer solid electrolyte, oxide glass ceramic) and battery cells using these solid electrolytes.

Figure 1: Mercedes-Benz/Daimler’s solid-state Li-ion battery patent portfolio overview

In 2020, both companies joined forces with SAFT (affiliate of TotalEnergies) to create the joint-venture ACC (Automotive Cell Company) for the development and production of batteries for automotive applications, with the plan to build gigafactories in France and Germany. After few patent filings in the early 1980s on solid electrolyte materials, SAFT clearly started its patenting activity on solid-state batteries in 2017 and strongly increased it over the last 2 years. As of today, SAFT holds 16 patent families (inventions) related to solid-state batteries, comprising 2 granted patents and 23 pending patent applications. “It is worth noting that 9 of its 16 inventions were published in the fourth quarter of 2021 alone, meaning that SAFT is an important actor to follow over the coming months”, points out Fleur Thissandier. SAFT’s SSB patent portfolio covers the whole supply chain from electrolyte materials to battery cells. Its patents mainly claim inorganic solid electrolytes, especially sulfide inorganic materials. The company also holds a patent on an emerging hydride solid electrolyte mixed with sulfides.

Figure 2: SAFT’s solid-state Li-ion battery patent portfolio overview

In November 2021, Stellantis and Mercedes-Benz announced that they are teaming up with U.S.-based solid-state battery specialist Factorial Energy to jointly develop solid-state technology from battery cells to vehicle integration (see Stellantis and Mercedes-Benz press releases). Factorial Energy, founded in 2020 by Dr. Siyu Huang, has developed breakthrough solid-state batteries that offer up to 50 percent longer range per charge, increased safety, and cost parity with conventional lithium-ion batteries. Factorial Energy’s proprietary FEST™ (Factorial Electrolyte System Technology) leverages a solid electrolyte material, which enables safe and reliable cell performance with high-capacity cathode and anode materials. Factorial Energy holds 7 patent families (inventions), all acquired from Lionano in May 2021, an American start-up also founded by Dr. Siyu Huang (now inactive). Two patent applications are focused on solid-state batteries. US 2021/0151794 claims polymer solid electrolytes and a battery cell that includes these. Patent application US 2021/0020944 claims electrodes comprising cathode active material particles and solid electrolyte comprising a polymer. Lionano focused on improving the key components of lithium-ion batteries and commercialized an advanced drop-in replacement material for the lithium-ion batteries. The material has been nano-engineered to create batteries with greater capacity and cycle life. This technology, fully developed at Cornell University, can enable lighter and lower-cost consumer electronic devices and longer range for electric vehicles. Factorial Energy holds other patents claiming liquid electrolytes (US 2021/0020986, US 2021/0020978), NCA and NMC cathode materials (US 2020/0274160, US 1,0741,837) and composition (polymer + artificial SEI forming salt + solvent) for forming an artificial Solid Electrolyte Interphase (SEI) layer (US 2021/0020949) and its use in an anode-free rechargeable battery. Moreover, the inventions disclosed in the patents undoubtedly represent a relatively small fraction of Factorial Energy’s know-how in the field of batteries.

Patenting activity in the battery field is very much thriving, and attractive at every level of the supply chain, especially on hot topics such as NMC cathodes, silicon anodes and solid-state batteries. In such a highly competitive and dynamic environment, it becomes increasingly critical to have good knowledge of the patent landscape and understand the strategy of the different players. As such, Knowmade publishes reports and sets up monitoring services in order to track and analyze the competitors’ R&D and IP strategies, to reveal where industry leaders, newcomers and start-ups are focused, and give an early view into the strategies they are pursuing, technologies they are investing in and products they are building.

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About the author
Fleur Thissandier, PhD, Fleur works for Knowmade in the field of Materials Chemistry and Energy storage. She holds a PhD in Materials Chemistry and Electrochemistry from CEA/INAC, (Grenoble, France). She also holds a Chemistry Engineering Degree from the Superior National School of Chemistry (ENSCM Montpellier, France). Fleur previously worked in battery industry as R&D Engineer.

About Knowmade
Knowmade is a Technology Intelligence and IP Strategy consulting company specialized in analysis of patents and scientific information. The company helps innovative companies and R&D organizations to understand their competitive landscape, follow technology trends, and find out opportunities and threats in terms of technology and patents.
Knowmade’s analysts combine their strong technology expertise and in-depth knowledge of patents with powerful analytics tools and methodologies to turn patents and scientific information into business-oriented report for decision makers working in R&D, Innovation Strategy, Intellectual Property, and Marketing. Our experts provide prior art search, patent landscape analysis, scientific literature analysis, patent valuation, IP due diligence and freedom-to-operate analysis. In parallel the company proposes litigation/licensing support, technology scouting and IP/technology watch service.
Knowmade has a solid expertise in Compound Semiconductors, Power Electronics, Batteries, RF Technologies & Wireless Communications, Solid-State Lighting & Display, Photonics, Memories, MEMS & Solid-State Sensors/Actuators, Semiconductor Manufacturing, Packaging & Assembly, Medical Devices, Medical Imaging, Microfluidics, Biotechnology, Pharmaceutics, and Agri-Food.