With COP26 well underway, it will be apparent to everyone that big technological changes will be required for countries to meet their agreed emissions targets. But how rapidly can we expect these changes to occur? For the automotive industry, it seems that the answer is "very rapidly indeed," with the market for electric vehicles (EVs) set to expand enormously in the next few years. The UK alone is projected to have around 23 million new EVs in the next decade (around 55% of all vehicles) and plans to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030. Local emissions rules may already be responsible for some of the increased demand for EVs. Here in Oxford, a "Zero Emission Zone" is being piloted in the new year and it will certainly be interesting to see whether more EVs can be spotted in and around the city centre as a result.
Given the vast potential size of the EV market it is perhaps unsurprising that recent years have seen greatly increased numbers of patent filings directed towards batteries. An analysis carried out by the European Patent Office last year shows that much of this growth (measured in terms of the number of International Patent Families, IPFs) has been dominated by automotive applications, with no signs that this trend is levelling off. Specialised uses of battery cells in battery packs in particular continues to be a strong area of innovation, something that has been supported by Li-ion battery cells becoming an increasingly mature technology. This growth in patent activity seems sure to continue as countries continue to upgrade their charging infrastructure and incentivise the take-up of EVs.
After years of talk from carmakers, the industry is rapidly being transformed as companies stake their future on EVs