Improving electricity storage capacity plays a key role in the transition to clean energy technologies. Between 2005 and 2018, patent activity for batteries and other electricity storage technologies worldwide grew on average 14% per year. That’s four times the average for all technology areas, according to the joint study published today by the European Patent Office (EPO) and the International Energy Agency (IEA).
The report shows that batteries account for nearly 90% of all electricity storage patents. The growth in innovation is mainly in the advancement of rechargeable lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries used in consumer electronics and electric cars.
Electric mobility in particular promotes the development of new Li-ion compounds aimed at improving power, durability, charging/discharging speed and recyclability. Technological progress is also fueled by the need to integrate larger amounts of renewable energy, such as wind and solar energy, into electricity grids.
Japan and South Korea have gained a significant lead worldwide with battery technology and hold many more international patents in this field than Europe, China and the US.
Within Europe, Germany generated the most patent applications for battery technology (5,080) in the period 2000 – 2018, ahead of France (1,354) and the United Kingdom (652). Dutch companies contributed with 179 international patent applications in this period.
It also appears that in the more mature industry, technical progress and mass production have led to a significant drop in battery prices in recent years – by almost 90% since 2010 in the case of Li-ion batteries for electric vehicles and by about two thirds in same period for stationary applications, including grid management.
Development of better and cheaper electricity storage is one of the greatest challenges for the future. According to the IEA’s sustainable development scenario, nearly 10,000 gigawatt-hours of batteries and other forms of energy storage will be needed worldwide by 2040, 50 times the size of the current market, to meet climate and renewable energy goals.
“Electricity storage technology is crucial to meet the demand for electric mobility and to achieve the transition to recyclable energy. This is necessary if we want to combat climate change, ”says EPO chairman António Campinos. “The rapid and sustained increase in innovations in this field shows that inventors and companies are taking up the challenge of the energy transition. The patent data shows that Asia has a big lead in this strategic industry, but the US and Europe can build on a rich innovation ecosystem, including diverse SMEs and research institutions, which can help to stay in the race for the next generation of batteries . ”
Since 2000, companies worldwide have filed more than 65,000 IPFs (international patent families) for electricity storage. The annual number of IPFs has risen sharply, from about 1,500 in 2005 to more than 7,000 in 2018. With an average annual growth of 14% since 2005, this increase is significantly greater than the average annual increase across all joint technology areas over the same period (3, 5%).
Growth of electric vehicles drives Li-ion innovations
Li-ion technology, dominant in portable electronics and electric vehicles, has fueled most battery innovations since 2005, the report said. In 2018, advancements in Li-ion cells accounted for 45% of battery cell patent filings, versus just 7% for cells based on other compounds. In 2011, electric vehicles replaced consumer electronics as the largest growth driver for Li-ion battery-related inventions. Improvements for battery packs for electric cars have produced positive spillover effects for stationary applications, including utility grid management.
Other storage technologies, such as supercapacitors and redox flow batteries, are also rapidly gaining ground and have the potential to address some of the weaknesses of Li-ion batteries.