The automotive industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by governments around the world implementing regulations and offering subsidies to promote the adoption and purchase of zero-emission vehicles such as fuel-cell electric vehicles and hybrid fuel cell vehicles (HFCEV), decreasing cost of HFCEV components that is making HFCEVs more affordable, and growing importance of technologies such as proton exchange membrane fuel cells, solid oxide fuel cells, and power electronics. 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 Fuel cells in automotive: hybrid fuel cellsBuy 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.

Hybrid fuel cells is a key innovation area in fuel cells

A hybrid fuel cell system is a power generation system that combines two or more types of power sources to generate electricity. In this system, a fuel cell is combined with other sources of energy, such as batteries and capacitors, to improve efficiency and reliability.

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 hybrid fuel cells.

Key players in hybrid fuel cells – 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 hybrid fuel cells

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Mercedes-Benz Group 79 Unlock Company Profile
Microsoft 43 Unlock Company Profile
Toyota Motor 1255 Unlock Company Profile
Johnson Controls International 67 Unlock Company Profile
Johnson & Johnson 48 Unlock Company Profile
Samsung SDI 114 Unlock Company Profile
Robert Bosch Stiftung 172 Unlock Company Profile
The Swatch Group 35 Unlock Company Profile
Siemens 40 Unlock Company Profile
Hyundai Motor 364 Unlock Company Profile
Cummins 65 Unlock Company Profile
Nissan Motor 323 Unlock Company Profile
Yamaha Motor 45 Unlock Company Profile
Hitachi 39 Unlock Company Profile
Murata Manufacturing 74 Unlock Company Profile
Hon Hai Precision Industry 42 Unlock Company Profile
Suzuki Motor 44 Unlock Company Profile
Honda Motor 342 Unlock Company Profile
Panasonic 255 Unlock Company Profile
Kyocera 98 Unlock Company Profile
Porsche Automobil 168 Unlock Company Profile
General Motors 204 Unlock Company Profile
Ballard Power Systems 39 Unlock Company Profile
FuelCell Energy 43 Unlock Company Profile
Sony Group 63 Unlock Company Profile
Bloom Energy 36 Unlock Company Profile
Bayerische Motoren Werke 51 Unlock Company Profile
LG 80 Unlock Company Profile
Airbus 59 Unlock Company Profile
Tesla 50 Unlock Company Profile
Brookfield 51 Unlock Company Profile
BlackBerry 46 Unlock Company Profile
Toshiba 101 Unlock Company Profile
Kia 179 Unlock Company Profile
Ford Motor 66 Unlock Company Profile
Meditor European Master Fund 77 Unlock Company Profile
Dyson 43 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Toyota Motor (Toyota) is the leading hybrid fuel cells patent filer, followed by Hyundai Motor. Toyota is developing solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs), which are more efficient than proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs), the type of fuel cell currently used in Toyota's HFCs. Toyota is also developing new HFC systems that are more compact and lightweight, which will make them more suitable for use in a wider range of vehicles. Some other prominent patent filers in the space include Honda Motor, Nissan Motor, and Panasonic.

In terms of application diversity, Microsoft leads the pack, while Johnson & Johnson and Brookfield stood in the second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, Tesla held the top position, followed by Johnson & Johnson and Dyson.

To further understand the key themes and technologies 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.