Identifying inventive activities of carmakers in energy storage technologies : evidence from patent analysis

Type de publication:

Conference Paper


Gerpisa colloquium, Paris (2015)


It is well-known that the electrification of powertrain is one of the major technological changes of the car industry (von Delft, 2013). In a such context, the development of viable electrochemical energy storage (EES) systems, and particularly batteries constitutes a central issue. Indeed, the performances and the costs of these systems may constitute key factors in the progressive change of internal combustion engine vehicles by hybrid, electric car and other alternative vehicle. This issue is all the more important since it does not exist dominant design concerning these technologies. Although battery lithium-ion is considered as the privileged technology, it is not stabilized yet and competes with other promising solutions like fuel cell.
Several authors (Kassatly, 2010; Altenburg, 2014) emphasize the importance for carmakers to strategically consider the developement of EES technologies. The decision to develop and manufacture in-house or on the contrary to acquire a system already assembled by external supplier will determine partly their share of value added along the automotive value chain in the future. Huth et al. (2013) provide 4 possible models of behavior for carmaker : full integrator, waiting integrator, packager and purchaser.
This work aims at analysing the willingness of carmaker to participate of development efforts concerning EES technologies mapping their research and development portfolio. Are carmakers involved in the same way? Does they follow the same strategy for the different technological solutions? How their involvment have changed over time? To achieve this goal, we study patents filed by 15 carmakers in the triad markets (Asia, USA, Europe) for EES technologies. Data are extracted from Questel international patent database and cover the period 2000 - 2012. The activities of carmakers are assessed from 3 perspectives :
- their global positioning on different steps of energy storage value chain (development component, system and integration in vehicle)
- the comparison of their research efforts on 3 key solutions: fuel cell, lithium-ion battery, NiMh battery.
- their participation to the lastest technological developments for energy storage
In order to get a better appraisal of inventive activities of carmaker, we use two types of indicators: number of patents filled (quantitative measure) patent value indicators (qualitative measure). Two main reasons explain this methodological choice. First, it is widely acknowledged that all patent have not the same value or technological merit. Second, some bias in the comparison of patent portfolios may arise when actors follow specific patent filing strategies, especially strategic patenting. As a consequence, patents of carmakers are evaluated in terms of respect of patentability requirements (decision of examiner to grant patent or not), impact (forward citations), valorisation (number of country chosen by carmaker for the protection of their inventions) and disturbing nature of patent (opposition procedure).

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Concéption Tommaso Pardi
Administration Géry Deffontaines

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