The automotive industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by the need for lower fuel consumption, reduced CO2 emissions, economical engines and increasing global vehicle production, and growing importance of technologies such as gasoline direct injection and diesel direct injection. 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: direct injection type enginesBuy the report here.

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 Foresight, 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 handing are useful technologies that are in the early stages of wider 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 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

Direct injection type engines is a key innovation area in automotive

Diesel Direct Injection (DI) is a simple kind of fuel injection system, which was utilised by many previous generation diesel engines. The basic DI diesel engines inject the fuel into the combustion chamber exactly above the piston. The compression of air within the combustion chamber increases its temperature above 400oC.

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 direct injection type engines.

Key players in direct injection type engines – 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 direct injection type engines

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Volvo 32 Unlock Company Profile
Rolls-Royce 27 Unlock Company Profile
BRP 31 Unlock Company Profile
Proterial 23 Unlock Company Profile
Mercedes-Benz Group 35 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsubishi Motors 38 Unlock Company Profile
Toyota Motor 268 Unlock Company Profile
IHI 92 Unlock Company Profile
Robert Bosch Stiftung 69 Unlock Company Profile
Yamabiko 42 Unlock Company Profile
Husqvarna 43 Unlock Company Profile
Hyundai Motor 33 Unlock Company Profile
Nissan Motor 61 Unlock Company Profile
Yamaha Motor 31 Unlock Company Profile
Hitachi 105 Unlock Company Profile
Caterpillar 29 Unlock Company Profile
Renault 52 Unlock Company Profile
Honda Motor 67 Unlock Company Profile
Mazda Motor 142 Unlock Company Profile
IFP Energies nouvelles 22 Unlock Company Profile
Porsche Automobil 67 Unlock Company Profile
General Motors 162 Unlock Company Profile
Achates Power 113 Unlock Company Profile
Bayerische Motoren Werke 32 Unlock Company Profile
Denso 56 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries 42 Unlock Company Profile
Continental 22 Unlock Company Profile
Ford Motor 484 Unlock Company Profile
Kawasaki Heavy Industries 18 Unlock Company Profile
Stellantis 21 Unlock Company Profile
Stihl 43 Unlock Company Profile
Winterthur Gas & Diesel 68 Unlock Company Profile
Wartsila Switzerland 24 Unlock Company Profile
HK 17 Unlock Company Profile
HD Hyundai 22 Unlock Company Profile
Mcalister Technologies 74 Unlock Company Profile
Man Energy Solutions Filial Af Man Energy Solutions Se Tyskland 79 Unlock Company Profile
Cox Powertrain 29 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Ford is the top patent filer in the direct injection type engines innovation area. EcoBoost is Ford’s most technologically advanced engine ever delivering up to 20% better fuel efficiency with outstanding performance. Ford engineers combined three key technologies designed to save fuel and boost power: direct fuel injection, variable camshaft timing, and turbocharging. An advanced software program ensures their seamless performance. Toyota, General Motors, Mazda Motor, and Achates Power are some of the other key players innovating in direct injection type engines.

In terms of application diversity, Mcalister Technologies held the top position, while Stellantis and Nissan Motor stood in second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, Cox Powertrain leads the pack, followed by IHI and Mcalister Technologies.

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.