The automotive industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity in electric drive axle is driven by strict government regulations to control hazardous emissions, growing consumer awareness of the benefits of decarbonization, rising interest in electric vehicles, and growing importance of technologies such as integrated drive module, P2 hybrid modules, and in-wheel motors. 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: electric drive axle. 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

Electric drive axle is a key innovation area in automotive

An electric drive axle is a type of axle assembly that includes an electric motor, a differential mechanism, and a transmission to transmit rotary power between the motor and differential mechanism. The electric motor can be used to power one or both of the drive wheels of the vehicle, delivering torque to the wheels through the transmission and differential.

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 electric drive axle.

Key players in electric drive axle – 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 electric drive axle

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
American Axle & Manufacturing 36 Unlock Company Profile
Dana 147 Unlock Company Profile
Magna International 12 Unlock Company Profile
NTT 21 Unlock Company Profile
Mercedes-Benz Group 42 Unlock Company Profile
Tata Motors 13 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsubishi Motors 21 Unlock Company Profile
Toyota Motor 70 Unlock Company Profile
Valeo 12 Unlock Company Profile
Schaeffler 87 Unlock Company Profile
NSK 18 Unlock Company Profile
BYD 10 Unlock Company Profile
Hyundai Motor 53 Unlock Company Profile
Aisin 21 Unlock Company Profile
Cummins 57 Unlock Company Profile
Nidec 14 Unlock Company Profile
Constellation Software 14 Unlock Company Profile
Sandvik 10 Unlock Company Profile
NTN 10 Unlock Company Profile
Honda Motor 162 Unlock Company Profile
Porsche Automobil 74 Unlock Company Profile
General Motors 26 Unlock Company Profile
Amazon.com 21 Unlock Company Profile
Tesla 12 Unlock Company Profile
BorgWarner 19 Unlock Company Profile
Allison Transmission 28 Unlock Company Profile
Kia 47 Unlock Company Profile
Ford Motor 51 Unlock Company Profile
Stellantis 11 Unlock Company Profile
Nikola 22 Unlock Company Profile
Lucid Group 15 Unlock Company Profile
Rivian 10 Unlock Company Profile
Zeppelin-Stiftung 47 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Honda Motor is one of the leading patent filers in electric drive axles. The company recently declared to receive an integrated axle drive EMR3, a third generation electronics motor reducer from Vitesco Technologies, for its all-electrice:N Architecture F, which will be marketed under the name e:Ny1. Some ther key patent filers in this space include Dana, Schaeffler, and Porsche Automobil.

In terms of application diversity, Tata Motors leads the pack, while Amazon.com and Mitsubishi Motors stood in the second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, Nikola held the top position, followed by Constellation Software and Tesla.

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.