The automotive industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by the demand for sustainable products, focus on reducing waste and use of key resources, and growing importance of technologies such as metal hydride and carbon nanotube adsorption. In the last three years alone, there have been over 1.2 million patents filed and granted in the automotive industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Environmental sustainability in Automotive: H2 storage fuel cells.  Buy the report here.

However, not all innovations are equal and nor do they follow a constant upward trend. Instead, their evolution takes the form of an S-shaped curve that reflects their typical lifecycle from early emergence to accelerating adoption, before finally stabilising and reaching maturity. 

Identifying where a particular innovation is on this journey, especially those that are in the emerging and accelerating stages, is essential for understanding their current level of adoption and the likely future trajectory and impact they will have. 

290+ innovations will shape the automotive industry 

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the automotive industry using innovation intensity models built on over 619,000 patents, there are 290+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry. 

Within the emerging innovation stage, EV discharge prediction, fuel cell ion exchange membranes, and hydrogen ICE fuel tanks are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. V2G smart metering, silicon-air batteries, and zeolites for exhaust filtering are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are HEV propulsion systems and wind-powered vehicles, which are now well established in the industry. 

Innovation S-curve for environmental sustainability in the automotive industry 

H2 storage fuel cells is a key innovation area in environmental sustainability 

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles utilise a hydrogen fuel cell to power their on-board electric motor. Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles possess high potential to reduce emissions related to the transportation sector. The physical storage of hydrogen in the automotive sector is in the form of compressed gas or cold/cryo-compressed.

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 50+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established automotive companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of H2 storage fuel cells. 

Key players in H2 storage fuel cells – a disruptive innovation in the automotive industry  

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of different applications identified for each relevant patent and broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators. 

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of different countries each relevant patent is registered in and reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’. 

Patent volumes related to H2 storage fuel cells

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Meditor European Master Fund 129 Unlock company profile
CEA 75 Unlock company profile
Toyota Motor 59 Unlock company profile
Hyundai Motor Group 54 Unlock company profile
Shanghai Huapeng Explosion Proof Technology 45 Unlock company profile
Kia 36 Unlock company profile
Societe BIC 33 Unlock company profile
McPhy Energy 29 Unlock company profile
Porsche Automobil Holding 27 Unlock company profile
BASF 27 Unlock company profile
Alternative Fuel Containers 24 Unlock company profile
Panasonic 22 Unlock company profile
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique 22 Unlock company profile
H2GO Power 19 Unlock company profile
Hydrexia 19 Unlock company profile
Energizer Holdings 19 Unlock company profile
General Motors 17 Unlock company profile
CLEAN PLANET ENTERPRISES 16 Unlock company profile
Entegris 16 Unlock company profile
China Petrochemical 16 Unlock company profile
Encite 16 Unlock company profile
Compagnie Generale des Etablissements Michelin 16 Unlock company profile
Robert Bosch Stiftung 14 Unlock company profile
Burelle 14 Unlock company profile
Linde 14 Unlock company profile
Honeywell International 14 Unlock company profile
Ingevity 13 Unlock company profile
Japan Steel Works 13 Unlock company profile
Chiyoda 13 Unlock company profile
Honda Motor 13 Unlock company profile
Siemens 12 Unlock company profile
KYB 12 Unlock company profile
Toray Industries 11 Unlock company profile
Suzuki Motor 11 Unlock company profile
Airedale Chemical Holdings Group 11 Unlock company profile
Ford Motor 10 Unlock company profile
Hydrogenious LOHC Technologies 10 Unlock company profile
ArianeGroup 10 Unlock company profile
RDA Holdings Private 9 Unlock company profile
Air Products and Chemicals 9 Unlock company profile
Mcalister Technologies 9 Unlock company profile
Hensoldt 8 Unlock company profile
ThyssenKrupp 8 Unlock company profile
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation 8 Unlock company profile
Korea Development Bank 8 Unlock company profile
Hitachi Plant Mechanics 8 Unlock company profile
Amminex 8 Unlock company profile
Brother Industries 6 Unlock company profile
Asemblon 6 Unlock company profile
Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft 6 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Meditor European Master Fund is a key player in the H2 storage fuel cells innovation area. The company is investing in fuel-cell developer Intelligent Energy and has invested more than $150m to date. Toyota, CEA, Hyundai and BASF are the other key players in the innovation area.

To further understand how environmental sustainability is disrupting the automotive industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Automotive

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GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.  

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.