Japan remains a powerhouse of battery innovation, with Panasonic, Toyota Motor and other names applying for more than one-third of international patents in the field, a new report shows.
Japan produced international patent applications published in 2018 for 2,339 inventions related to batteries, almost twice as much as second-ranked South Korea’s 1,230, according to a joint study from the European Patent Office and the International Energy Agency. The study measured patent applications filed in two or more countries.
The two east Asian economies are locked in a fierce race for dominance in batteries, which are essential for the widespread use of electric vehicles and renewable energy.
China ranked fourth in patent filings, followed by the US in fifth place, according to the study. The 38 contracting states to the European Patent Convention ranked third.
Japanese companies made up seven of the top 10 applicants for the 2000-2018 period, but South Korea’s Samsung Electronics was the most prolific filer, with 4,787 inventions. Tesla supplier Panasonic came second with 4,046, followed by LG Electronics with 2,999.
This article is from the Nikkei Asian Review, a global publication with a uniquely Asian perspective on politics, the economy, business and international affairs. Our own correspondents and outside commentators from around the world share their views on Asia, while our Asia300 section provides in-depth coverage of 300 of the biggest and fastest-growing listed companies from 11 economies outside Japan.
Battery innovation has taken off in the past two decades. International patent applications for 7,153 inventions related to electricity storage were published in 2018, up sharply from the 1,029 published in 2000. Most of this activity was in batteries.
Innovations involving lithium-ion cells, used in mobile phones and notebook computers, accounted for 45 per cent of battery cell patent activity in 2018.
Improved battery cells will let electric vehicles travel farther on a single charge. Storage technology will also enable reliable delivery of power needed to compensate for fluctuations in solar and wind power generation.
While Japan leads in battery patent applications, it lags in electric vehicles. The report notes that “Japan’s leadership in battery technology has not yet translated into a large share of the global electric car market”.
China, with 1.1m cars, accounted for half of the global market in 2019, it said, while Japan’s share languished at 2 per cent.
A version of this article was first published by the Nikkei Asian Review on September 23 2020. ©2020 Nikkei Inc. All rights reserved