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Penetrating the Fog Surrounding Lithium-ion Traction Batteries.

New Delhi, June 14 -- Penetrating the fog surrounding lithium-ion traction batteries, we should use the term generically for all rechargeable batteries involving lithium ions says Dr Peter Harrop from IDTechEx. He says for example, it is false to talk of lithium polymer as an alternative to lithium-ion because the term lithium polymer simply refers to a form of electrolyte involving solid polymer electrolyte usually with gel. Indeed, sometimes people talk loosely about favouring lithium titanate against lithium polymer or lithium iron phosphate when the first usually refers to how the anode is made, the second to the electrolyte and the third to the cathode. In principle one could have all these in one battery.

When looking at intellectual property it is important to realise that many of the leaders have joint ventures and these may or may not patent their own intellectual property. The remarkable new computer analysis of 40,000 patents in the report, "Advanced Energy Storage Technologies: Patent Trends and Company Positioning" can be read in an afternoon because it distils the complex patent scene into nearly 100 patent maps which show intensity of patenting by company, alliance, year, anode or cathode technology, country and more. Here is the simplest patent map at the start. It shows that, in number of patents filed by year on advanced energy storage technology that Japan stays ahead while the US and less impressively Europe, China and the Rest of The World are playing catch up. Korea is clipping along at a strong, steady rate. These data are dominated by lithium-ion battery patents: the report splits these out. On the other hand it clarifies all traction battery patents (not just lithium) in one grouping and separately supercapacitors etc. Statistically meaningful data for 2009 will be available later in 2011.

The report tabulates investment and investment commitments by the giants in lithium-ion batteries and increasingly focussing on versions for electric vehicles. Again, Japan comes out well ahead with Panasonic, including its Sanyo acquisition, and Nissan, including Nissan-Renault and the AESC Nissan/NEC joint venture in the lead. These two competing groupings have committed a total of $3.3 billion in total between them, dwarfing the commitment of competitors so far. A commitment of over $2 billion is necessary to have a chance of being in the profitable top three when the shakeout in traction batteries comes and, behind these leaders in investment, only Samsung, GS Yuasa and its joint ventures, Sony (not really in traction batteries yet), BYD, LG Chem and Johnson Controls/SAFT come close at around half the necessary commitment so far. However, they all need to win the intellectual property race as well and the newly available clarity on their intellectual property leads to some concerns with many of them.

Of course, patentors can be unknown names and the user of these data often needs to track company activity. For this reason, assignees are analysed as well as identifying the leading individuals doing the patenting. Even citations between companies are clarified to expose who has strong patents and who is just playing a numbers game. Lithium polymer second generation batteries are now flying in pure electric aircraft and airships, under the sea in autonomous underwater vehicles AUVs, on the sea and lakes and in on-road and off-road vehicles. So it will be with the continuing rollout of other second generation batteries and the planned third generation batteries. The only events covering the full picture are the IDTechEx "Electric Vehicles Land Sea Air" series, the next of which is in Stuttgart Germany June 28-29.

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Publication:Wheels Unplugged
Date:Jun 14, 2011
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