The automotive industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Common rail fuel injection is witnessing rapid innovation due to stringent emission regulations, increasing fuel efficiency demands, and the development of electrified and hybrid vehicles. Innovations include higher injection pressures, multiple injection events, variable injection timing, advanced injector designs, and integration with other engine systems. Other factors driving innovation include advances in materials and manufacturing processes, increased use of simulation and modeling tools, and collaboration between automotive manufacturers and fuel system suppliers. The automotive industry is utilizing advanced common rail fuel injection technologies to improve fuel economy, reduce emissions, and enhance engine performance. High-pressure systems, piezoelectric injectors, variable injection timing, and integrated systems are among the latest innovations. These technologies are being used in heavy-duty diesel engines by Bosch, Continental, and Denso, achieving significant reductions in nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, and fuel consumption. In the last three years alone, there have been over 1.7 million patents filed and granted in the automotive industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Innovation in automotive: common rail fuel injection. Buy the report here.

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However, not all innovations are equal and nor do they follow a constant upward trend. Instead, their evolution takes the form of an S-shaped curve that reflects their typical lifecycle from early emergence to accelerating adoption, before finally stabilizing and reaching maturity.

Identifying where a particular innovation is on this journey, especially those that are in the emerging and accelerating stages, is essential for understanding their current level of adoption and the likely future trajectory and impact they will have.

300+ innovations will shape the automotive industry

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the automotive industry using innovation intensity models built on over one million patents, there are 300+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, integrated multi-motor drivetrains, electric power steering (EPS), and post-collision handling are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Variable compression engines, V2V distance monitoring, and turbocharger shaft bearings are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among the maturing innovation areas are kinetic energy recovery system (KERS) and plasma-jet ignition, which are now well established in the industry.

Innovation S-curve for the automotive industry

Common rail fuel injection is a key innovation area in automotive

Common rail fuel injection is a fuel delivery system used in internal combustion engines. It involves the use of a high-pressure fuel rail, which supplies fuel to individual injectors. The fuel is pressurized and stored in the rail, and then injected into the combustion chamber at the precise moment for efficient combustion. The system allows for better fuel atomization, improved power output, reduced emission levels, and increased fuel efficiency.

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 30 companies, spanning technology vendors, established automotive companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of common rail fuel injection.

Key players in common rail fuel injection – a disruptive innovation in the automotive industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of applications identified for each patent. It broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.   

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of countries each patent is registered in. It reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.  

Patent volumes related to common rail fuel injection

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Volvo 18 Unlock Company Profile
NOK 147 Unlock Company Profile
Toyota Motor 104 Unlock Company Profile
Sanoh Industrial 20 Unlock Company Profile
Robert Bosch Stiftung 980 Unlock Company Profile
Benteler International 43 Unlock Company Profile
Keihin 40 Unlock Company Profile
Hyundai Motor 54 Unlock Company Profile
Aptiv 64 Unlock Company Profile
Cummins 48 Unlock Company Profile
Orbital 19 Unlock Company Profile
Hitachi 115 Unlock Company Profile
Caterpillar 105 Unlock Company Profile
Renault 19 Unlock Company Profile
3M 82 Unlock Company Profile
Honda Motor 43 Unlock Company Profile
Porsche Automobil 71 Unlock Company Profile
General Motors 26 Unlock Company Profile
Denso 159 Unlock Company Profile
BorgWarner 127 Unlock Company Profile
Wartsila 37 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries 21 Unlock Company Profile
Continental 517 Unlock Company Profile
Ford Motor 37 Unlock Company Profile
Usui 41 Unlock Company Profile
Stellantis 22 Unlock Company Profile
Yanmar (Tokyo Office) 21 Unlock Company Profile
stoba 27 Unlock Company Profile
Hirschvogel 16 Unlock Company Profile
Uchiyama Manufacturing 18 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Robert Bosch Stiftung is one of the leading patent filers in common rail fuel injection for the automotive industry. The company has filed a patent for a new system for internal combustion engines. The system uses a solenoid valve for precise fuel injections and an injector for improved fuel atomization, potentially improving diesel engine performance and fuel economy. The new common rail fuel injection system patented by Robert Bosch Stiftung has the potential to significantly contribute to improving diesel engine performance and fuel economy, potentially reducing emissions and improving fuel efficiency for millions of vehicles worldwide. Continental and Denso are some other key patent filers in this space.

In terms of application diversity, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries leads the pack, while 3M and Cummins stood in the second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, stoba held the top position, followed by 3M and NOK.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the automotive industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Automotive

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GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.