The automotive industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by the demand for improved engine performance, higher fuel efficiency and the need to comply with government regulations to reduce vehicle emissions, and growing importance of technologies such as variable valve timing and turbocharging. In the last three years alone, there have been over 1.2 million patents filed and granted in the automotive industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Innovation in Automotive: Engine cylinder deactivation. 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 stabilising 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.

290+ 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 619,000 patents, there are 290+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, resilient spoke wheels, auto-transmission lubrication circuits, and ignition switching engines are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Engine purge actuators, electro-dynamic braking, and adsorptive vapour recovery system estimation are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are collision avoidance braking control system and direct injection type engines, which are now well established in the industry.

Innovation S-curve for the automotive industry

Engine cylinder deactivation is a key innovation area in automotive

Cylinder deactivation is a method used in multi-cylinder engines where a combination of cylinders is disabled thereby reducing the engine’s displacement and improving the overall engine efficiency and fuel economy. Engine cylinder deactivation is achieved by deactivating the intake and exhaust valves for the deactivated cylinder, which can be done on multiple cylinders of an engine providing variations of active cylinder displacement.

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 10+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established automotive companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of engine cylinder deactivation.

Key players in engine cylinder deactivation – a disruptive innovation in the automotive industry

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

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

Patent volumes related to engine cylinder deactivation

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Eaton 142 Unlock Company Profile
Mahle 45 Unlock Company Profile
Schaeffler 44 Unlock Company Profile
Ford Motor 37 Unlock Company Profile
Mazda Motor 26 Unlock Company Profile
Hyundai Motor Group 26 Unlock Company Profile
Cummins 23 Unlock Company Profile
Toyota Motor 22 Unlock Company Profile
Otics 11 Unlock Company Profile
Kia 8 Unlock Company Profile
BorgWarner 8 Unlock Company Profile
Motonic 6 Unlock Company Profile
Mercedes-Benz Group 5 Unlock Company Profile
General Motors 5 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Eaton is a key player in the engine cylinder deactivation innovation area. The company’s engine cylinder deactivation and early/late intake valve closure (EIVC/LIVC) technology can operate at up to 3 to 4 bar brake mean effective pressure (BMEP) at all speeds. The technology reduces emissions by improving after-treatment thermal management while providing better fuel economy. Schaeffler, Mahle, and Ford are some of the other key players.

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.