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GM's commitment to green includes hundreds of patents

More than half of the 1,300 patents filed by General Motors Co. in 2009 are green innovations, proof of the rapid development of groundbreaking technology by GM researchers and engineers.


General Motors is stepping up efforts to increase green innovations by filing hundreds of patents last year; including patents for the use of new materials and alloys.

"The move toward electrification is requiring us to reinvent the DNA of the automobile, requiring massive amounts of innovation," said Alan Taub, vice president of GM Global research and Development said in a news release. "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's leadership in the development of green technologies was recognized in a study of the patent activity of the top-15 global automakers released this week by the Intellectual Capital Merchant Banc firm Ocean Tomo.

Among the new developments is a catalyst material for the purification of exhaust from diesel or other lean-burning engines. Traditional catalysts use platinum, but GM researchers discovered the material perovskite can provide performance equal to platinum at a much lower cost. 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, GM announced.

Another breakthrough is a new device that uses a material called shape memory alloy (SMA), which changes shape when it is heated. The researchers at GM 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 improve the fuel economy of vehicles in the future.

"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."