The automotive industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by environmental protection, fossil fuel scarcity, climate change and pollution, and growing importance of technologies such as series hybrid propulsion and parallel hybrid propulsion. 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 Environmental sustainability in Automotive: HEV propulsion systems.  Buy 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 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, EV discharge prediction, fuel cell ion exchange membranes, and hydrogen ICE fuel tanks are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. V2G smart metering, silicon-air batteries, and zeolites for exhaust filtering are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are HEV propulsion systems and wind-powered vehicles, which are now well established in the industry. 

Innovation S-curve for environmental sustainability in the automotive industry 

HEV propulsion systems is a key innovation area in environmental sustainability 

A hybrid vehicle is a vehicle that uses two or more types of propulsion. Most hybrid vehicles utilise a traditional gasoline engine along with an electric motor to power the vehicle. 

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 40+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established automotive companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of HEV propulsion systems. 

Key players in HEV propulsion systems – 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 HEV propulsion systems

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Toyota Motor 223 Unlock company profile
Ford Motor 106 Unlock company profile
Hyundai Motor Group 104 Unlock company profile
Kia 68 Unlock company profile
Nissan Motor 45 Unlock company profile
Eaton 42 Unlock company profile
Sumitomo Electric Industries 40 Unlock company profile
Honda Motor 33 Unlock company profile
Porsche Automobil Holding 32 Unlock company profile
Liebherr-International 30 Unlock company profile
General Motors 29 Unlock company profile
Dana 29 Unlock company profile
Denso 21 Unlock company profile
AB Volvo 20 Unlock company profile
Hitachi 19 Unlock company profile
Yazaki 18 Unlock company profile
Robert Bosch Stiftung 18 Unlock company profile
Allison Transmission Holdings 17 Unlock company profile
Komatsu 16 Unlock company profile
Aisin 15 Unlock company profile
Subaru 12 Unlock company profile
Paice 12 Unlock company profile
Zhejiang Geely Holding Group 11 Unlock company profile
Bentley Motors 10 Unlock company profile
Suncall 8 Unlock company profile
Kobe Steel 8 Unlock company profile
Toyota Jidosha Kogyo 7 Unlock company profile
Nifco 7 Unlock company profile
Aptiv 7 Unlock company profile
Hanon Systems 7 Unlock company profile
Continental 7 Unlock company profile
Mitsubishi Electric 7 Unlock company profile
Hyundai Transys 6 Unlock company profile
TVS Group 6 Unlock company profile
Mitsubishi Motors 6 Unlock company profile
Doosan Infracore 6 Unlock company profile
Nippon Sheet Glass 6 Unlock company profile
BYD 6 Unlock company profile
Oshkosh 5 Unlock company profile
Hyundai Mobis 5 Unlock company profile
Keihin 5 Unlock company profile
Nidec 5 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Toyota is a key player in the HEV propulsion systems innovation area. The company has introduced the serial-parallel concept of HEV, which is commercially presented as Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive (THS drive). This concept is implemented in the first and the most successful commercial hybrid vehicle Toyota Prius. It is a complex HEV system wherein both serial and parallel energy pathways are integrated into one propulsion system. Hyundai, Ford, Kia and Nissan are some of the other key players in the innovation area.

To further understand how environmental sustainability is disrupting the automotive industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Automotive

Premium Insights


The gold standard of business intelligence.

Blending expert knowledge with cutting-edge technology, GlobalData’s unrivalled proprietary data will enable you to decode what’s happening in your market. You can make better informed decisions and gain a future-proof advantage over your competitors.


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.