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Technological development of key domains in electric vehicles: Improvement rates, technology trajectories and key assignees


  • Feng, Sida
  • Magee, Christopher L.


Technology innovation in electric vehicles is of significant interest to researchers, companies and policy-makers of many countries. Electric vehicles integrate various kinds of distinct technologies and decomposing the overall electric vehicle field into several key domains allows determination of more detailed, valuable information. To provide both broader and more detailed information about technology development in the EV field, unlike most previous studies on electric vehicle innovation which analyzed this field as a whole, this research decomposed the electric vehicle field into domains, which are power electronics, battery, electric motor as well as charging and discharging subdomains and then further extracted the subdomains. Furthermore, In addition, the improvement rates, technology trajectories and major patent assignees in these domains and key subdomains are determined using patents extracted for each domain from the US patent system. The main findings are: (1) The estimated rates of performance improvement per year are 18.3% for power electronics, 7.7% for electric motors, 23.8% for charging and discharging and 11.7% for batteries. The relatively lower improvement rate for electric motors and batteries suggests their potential to hinder the popularization of electric vehicles. Besides, as for the subdomains, the relatively higher technology improvement rate of lithium-ion battery or permanent magnet motor in its domain supports the current trend of battery or motor type quantitively from a patent analysis view. A possible implication for the policy makers encouraging EV development is to issue more incentive plans for innovations in the battery and electric motor domains, especially for lithium-ion battery and permanent magnet motor. (2) The technology trajectories depict the development of four critical subdomains over time, which quantitively proves the focuses and emerging topics of the subdomains and thereby provide guidance to research topic selection. For example, the silicon negative electrode is a promising topic in the subdomain of lithium-ion battery. (3) The key players in the four critical subdomains appear to be Toyota and Honda in hybrid power electronics, E-One Moli Energy Corp in lithium-ion batteries, Panasonic in Permanent Magnet motors and Toyota in discharging. The key players found by the main path method from the view of innovation are also important players in EV from the market view. Other market participants should pay more attention to the adjustment of business strategy of these companies to monitor the market, and make effort to invent important EV related technologies.

Suggested Citation

  • Feng, Sida & Magee, Christopher L., 2020. "Technological development of key domains in electric vehicles: Improvement rates, technology trajectories and key assignees," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 260(C).
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:appene:v:260:y:2020:i:c:s0306261919319518
    DOI: 10.1016/j.apenergy.2019.114264

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