The automotive industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. The automotive industry is experiencing innovation in solar electric vehicles (SEVs) due to government incentives, rising fuel prices, environmental concerns, and advancements in solar technology. Researchers are developing more efficient solar panels, lighter, durable panels, efficient battery storage systems, and integrated charging systems. The increasing electrification of the automotive fleet and the rise of new mobility services are also driving innovation. These factors are making solar EVs more efficient, practical, and cost-effective, making them a viable option for a wider range of consumers and businesses. The automotive industry is exploring the latest technologies in solar EVs, including perovskite solar cells, tandem solar cells, integrated solar EV charging systems, and lightweight and flexible solar panels. Perovskite cells are more efficient and affordable than traditional silicon cells, while tandem cells absorb a wider range of light. Integrated solar EV charging systems extend driving range but add weight and cost. In the last three years alone, there have been over 1.7 million patents filed and granted in the automotive industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Environmental sustainability in automotive: solar EVs. Buy the report here.

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According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which uses over one million patents to analyze innovation intensity for the automotive industry, there are 300+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Solar EVs is a key innovation area in environmental sustainability

Solar EVs are vehicles that are powered by solar energy. They are equipped with solar panels or solar modules that convert sunlight into electricity, which is then used to either charge the vehicle’s battery or directly power the vehicle. The solar panels are usually integrated into the roof or other parts of the vehicle’s structure. Solar EVs provide a sustainable and environment-friendly mode of transportation by utilizing renewable energy sources.

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 30+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established automotive companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of solar EVs.

Key players in solar EVs – a disruptive innovation in the automotive industry

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

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

Patent volumes related to solar EVs

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Mercedes-Benz Group 38 Unlock Company Profile
Toyota Motor 312 Unlock Company Profile
Robert Bosch Stiftung 36 Unlock Company Profile
BYD 17 Unlock Company Profile
Husqvarna 97 Unlock Company Profile
Hyundai Motor 147 Unlock Company Profile
Nissan Motor 23 Unlock Company Profile
Hanon Systems 18 Unlock Company Profile
Berkshire Hathaway 18 Unlock Company Profile
General Electric 17 Unlock Company Profile
Honda Motor 51 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsubishi Electric 31 Unlock Company Profile
Nokia 16 Unlock Company Profile
Panasonic 78 Unlock Company Profile
Porsche Automobil 83 Unlock Company Profile
General Motors 49 Unlock Company Profile
Raytheon Technologies 23 Unlock Company Profile
Sharp 21 Unlock Company Profile
Bayerische Motoren Werke 18 Unlock Company Profile
Boeing 40 Unlock Company Profile
LG 15 Unlock Company Profile
Denso 29 Unlock Company Profile
Tesla 15 Unlock Company Profile
SoftBank Group 19 Unlock Company Profile
Kia 91 Unlock Company Profile
Ford Motor 156 Unlock Company Profile
Stellantis 15 Unlock Company Profile
Nikola 18 Unlock Company Profile
Semiconductor Energy Laboratory 16 Unlock Company Profile
Solar Ship 16 Unlock Company Profile
Nio 45 Unlock Company Profile
DD Dannar 15 Unlock Company Profile
Hyliion 31 Unlock Company Profile
Wobben Properties 18 Unlock Company Profile
Smart Auto Labs 26 Unlock Company Profile
Beijing Hanergy Photovoltaic Investment 27 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Toyota Motor (Toyota) is one of the leading patent filers in solar EVs, including a system designed for efficiency, lightweight, and reliability. This portfolio includes solar panels, battery management systems, vehicle control systems, and sensors, giving Toyota a competitive advantage in the development and commercialization of solar EVs. Ford Motor and Hyundai Motor are also investing heavily in solar EV technology, with Toyota being the most successful in 2022. Toyota's investment in solar EV technology is paying off, as it sold more solar EVs than any other automaker and is a leader in developing solar EV charging infrastructure. The market for solar EVs is expected to grow rapidly due to government incentives, rising fuel prices, environmental concerns, and advances in solar technology. Automakers with strong patent portfolios in solar EVs are well-positioned to capitalize on this growth.

In terms of application diversity, Berkshire Hathaway leads the pack, while Nio and Solar Ship stood in the second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, Wobben Properties held the top position, followed by Nikola and Nokia.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the automotive industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Sustainability in 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.