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Green Technology Patents Represent More Than Half of GM 2009 Filings

One of GM’s innovations involves the creation of a shape memory alloy (SMA) heat engine for power generation from waste engine heat. Source: GM. Click to enlarge.

More than half of the 1,300 patents filed by General Motors Co. in 2009 are green innovations, evidence of the rapid development by GM researchers and engineers. A study of the patent activity of the top-15 global automakers released by the Intellectual Capital Merchant Banc firm Ocean Tomo, LLC highlighted GM’s leadership in this area.

Green automotive technologies are the building blocks for creating and improving alternative power plants and increasing fuel efficiency,” said James E. Malackowski, CEO of Ocean Tomo LLC. “GM has higher average quality and newer green technology and patents than the other 14 automakers combined.”

Among the most notable was the development of a new catalyst material for the purification of exhaust from diesel or other lean-burning engines. Traditional catalysts use platinum, but a team of GM researchers discovered the material perovskite can provide performance equal to platinum at a much lower cost. (Earlier post.) This innovation could help to reduce the cost of diesel and other lean-burning engine technology in the future, while also keeping them safe for the environment.

Another breakthrough came in the form of a new device that uses a material called shape memory alloy (SMA), which changes shape when it is heated. (Earlier post.) GM researchers are developing ways to use the material to build a recovery device that would convert waste heat from a vehicle’s engine into electricity to power auxiliary equipment, such as the radio or interior accent lighting. This technology could help to further improve the fuel economy of tomorrow’s vehicles, while also making next-generation hybrids more efficient.

As one of 37 projects selected by the US Department of Energy’s ARPA-E in the initial round of funding, General Motors R&D will receive $2.7 million (subject to final negotiation with DOE) to support building a prototype thermomechanical waste heat recovery system using an SMA heat engine to generate electricity from the heat in automotive exhaust. GM was the only automaker to receive an ARPA-E award in the first round of funding.

The move toward electrification is requiring us to reinvent the DNA of the automobile, requiring massive amounts of innovation. There’s almost no component on the vehicle that is not being reinvented. As a result, our green patent portfolio is helping us achieve world-class technological breakthroughs in the energy and environmental space.

GM has a rich history of being an innovation leader, from the invention of the catalytic converter, to the development of the world’s most advanced telematics safety system—OnStar. We will continue our rapid pace of technology development in areas that will be most beneficial to our customers.

—Alan Taub, vice president of GM Global Research and Development



In 1987 GM beat the world in solar racing by a factor of 2. By 1996 GM was 'marketing' the EV1 and owned the world patents to ALL NiMH rechargeable technology - from AAA to EV batteries.

So they crushed EVs and defined "Who killed the electric Car"..


Does GM have enough Green Patents to stop the evolution of electrified vehicles as they have done in the past?


GM just saw that the new administration would not have the EPA support ZEV, so they sold the batteries and scrapped the cars. This sort of up and down zip zag depending on what group is in power has cost us a lot in lost progress.


LOL Window dressing. Didn't stop GM from going bankrupt.


Has GM's attitude really changed? Patent rights is and has been used to block the introduction of many worthwhile innovations.

Could the USA government restrict this negative use of patent rights by buying them and letting local manufacturers use them at a very low cost. After all, GM belongs to the Fed Government and it could do that.


Then people would say that they have reduced the value of the company and would not maximize the return at sale time. You can not really balance the public and private interests, someone always loses out.


I thought people forgot the inherent historic treachery.


Anti-GM conspiracy-theorist trolls are out in force. You guys really need to get a life.
Combine the Volt, and third party assessment that “GM has higher average quality and newer green technology and patents than the other 14 automakers combined.”
If not GM, which OEM leading vehicle electrification?


I wish a GM car on you. GM exposed themselves for bankrupt decades - another "too big to fail" and "too corrupt to lead" or have you been handed $50 billion also frankbank.


Frankbank, how many EV1's or Volts have you and the public driven during fourteen(14) years did you say, what fraction of a percent was that?

We 'trolls' track the numbers, without reimbursement..

Will S

Frankbank, GM slip their throats and ours by killing not only the EV-1 (and it's plug-in hybrid) but the 80mpg Precept, part of the Partnership for a New Generation Vehicle back in 2001. Conspiracy theories? LOL! They were in-your-face about it.

The Volt will be affordable by a small percentage of the population, so it is window dressing. Where is their equivalent to the Swift, MiEV, Leaf, Aptera, Alias, etc? Note that they still have the design rights to their Lean Machine, and continue to sit on them...


Owning the patents and mass producing the products are two very different things. Only about 2% of the patents are mass produced. They are very often bought out to be kept out of the market place and to protect large investment in current production facilities + the manufacturer balance sheet. That is a very negative aspect of extended patent rights.

On something as important as electrified vehicles, batteries, essential heath care drugs, etc shorter patent protection periods could benefit the nation and the world.

There are not patent protection on powerful illegal drugs, tobacco products, wine, beer and other alcoholic drinks and they are flourishing.


"..There are not patent protection on powerful illegal drugs, tobacco products, wine, beer and other alcoholic drinks and they are flourishing" - interesting comment.


Patents are considered assets and have to be defended by the patent holder. Investors like them because they represent a potential monopoly position. Patents should allow the company to recover development costs and then compete. If you to not develop them and market them, then you lose them.


How many Insight-1s have you and the fringe bought? What fraction of a percent was that?

You need to understand the numbers.

Honda and GM didn't kill the electric car, it was a zombie from the start.

After 10 years of technology advances on all fronts, the electric car is STILL not really viable.

AAB projects that global EV market share of up to 0.50% of the 2020 new-vehicle market.
- And global PHEV market; 0.6%.

They might be wrong - but ten times that percentage, by 2020 might make rational people decide the EV-1, in 2000 was quite likely a brick.

Will S

TT, your perspective seems shaped by your allegiance to the automotive world. GM not only killed the electric vehicle, they asked to have PNGV killed and Spencer Abraham complied, pulling a requirement for a 2004 80mpg family car, and replacing it with a vague, concept that was sure not to hit the streets for another 20 years. All electric vehicle technology was shelved at the Big 3, and only HEVs were pursued by Honda and Toyota. Also, Texaco bought the NiMH rights, and refused to allow EV batteries to be produced. 2+2=?

"Fool us once, shame on you - fool us fool us once, you can't fool us twice!" --GWB


I don't know how to make this any simpler.

Will, your perspective seems shaped by your antipathy to American business - but you should still be able to realize NO automaker (like GM) can "not make" a type of car.

Nor can 3 or 4 or even 10 automakers.
It takes the whole world to "not make" a type of car.

That is what happened - and is STILL happening. Do you really believe NOT one automaker in the entire world wants to have a 2 place EV that would be the hottest seller since the model A?
Embrace reality. Quit dreaming.

After 10 years the Prius (best hybrid in the world, even at 10 years old) is outsold by the Impala. Yikes ! !

I cite Impala as an easy car for the green extremists to hate (with some justification) , not because I like it.

There are no automakers, even today that are taking over the market with an EV like “the brick”.

Do you really think GM had some evil geniuses that created the car of 2020 back in 2002 with the EV1 and scrapped it because, . umm, . because it would push all other cars out of the market and make them rich ?

I really wish the Volt or Leaf made economic sense, but they don’t.

So I limp along on older cars, listening to the so called “Big 3” saying “this time we meet and beat the imports on value” every year, over and over.

Are they at least closer ? I hope, I wish. But we should not confuse our dreams and delusions with reality.

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