Gaining a competitive advantage through new technologies and emerging fields in the always competitive car industry is something that car manufacturers should always have their eye on. Right now, the focus is on innovation in electric vehicle technology, and United States manufacturers seem to be leading the way.

With a history of lagging behind their competitors overseas when it comes to new technology, the Big Three (GM, Ford, & Chrysler) are taking steps to become more proactive than reactive. According to IPWatchdog, a new report suggests that when it comes to electric vehicles, GM and Ford currently hold the most electric car related patents among car manufacturers.

Ford is currently leading the way in terms of intellectual property, with a reported one fifth of all electric vehicle patents, with General Motors not far behind. Japanese Manufacturers Honda and Toyota are third and fourth, however neither manufacturer is centered on all-electric vehicles, but instead hydrogen fuel-cell cars and hybrids.

One of Ford’s most interesting patents is a system that will automatically connect a parked car to a charging station. In the event the car owner forgets to plug in at night, the vehicle will robotically plug itself in. Also included among their 459 patents are concepts for better power-management systems and implementing solar technologies on production cars.

GM Reportedly holds a total of 370 patents. Included in their patent list is a system to provide more flexibility when it comes to billing for charging stations through the use of a smartphone app as well as a patent for technology that will alert pedestrians of electric vehicles around that they may not be able to hear.

Although they don’t have the breadth of patents that the U.S giants do, Honda and Toyota have their share of potentially useful and intriguing technologies. Honda holds a patent for a powertrain for electric powered motorcycles and scooters, while Toyota holds one for an electric vehicle theft prevention device.

It will be interesting to see if, and when these patents will be put to work and included as features for new cars. All we know now is, according to the numbers, U.S manufacturers seem to be leading the way when it comes to electric vehicle technology innovation.