Companies scramble to patent fuel-cell technologies

After a lull in the number of hydrogen fuel-cell related patents being filed, companies are now scrambling to protect advances in fuel-cell development. Patent activity began to grow almost exponentially about seven years ago, initially led by specialist fuel-cell developers, but subsequently by OEMs such as Toyota.

Fuel-cell vehicles (FCVs) are still unlikely to be seen on the roads in great numbers before 2015 - 2020, making patents which expire in 20 years far less useful than they otherwise would be. But the massive R&D dollars required to move fuel-cell technology forward, and the potential sales that could result from a successful design, are motivating fuel-cell developers to try and protect their investment.

Fuel Cells Works reports a patent attorney studying the trends as saying that there are five areas of hydrogen fuel-cell development that must be worked on to achieve mass-production in FCVs:
  • Reducing cost of the catalyst
  • Onboard hydrogen storage
  • Infrastructure development
  • Reducing membrane cost
  • Water management
Analysis: Fuel-cells have proven to be incredibly expensive to develop. The potential is tremendous, but if fuel-cell technology doesn't continue to push ahead aggressively, plug-in electric vehicles might just beat them to the punch.

[Source: Fuel Cells Works]

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