The automotive industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by the need to safely transfer fluids in new technology, and growing importance of technologies such as fuel cell vehicles, connected and autonomous vehicles. 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: Fuel cell heat exchangers. 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, 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

Fuel cell heat exchangers is a key innovation area in automotive

Fuel cell systems must have heat exchangers to perform thermal management tasks such as heating incoming gas streams, transferring heat from different flow streams, and maintaining temperature uniformity. A fuel cell heat exchanger needs to be safe to use with corrosive fluids and gases at high temperatures. A stainless-steel tube fin heat exchanger is used to design and manufacture a heat exchanger that can withstand such conditions.

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 fuel cell heat exchangers.

Key players in fuel cell heat exchangers – 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 fuel cell heat exchangers

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Valeo 176 Unlock Company Profile
Mahle 138 Unlock Company Profile
Dana 101 Unlock Company Profile
Denso 100 Unlock Company Profile
Hanon Systems 56 Unlock Company Profile
LG 55 Unlock Company Profile
Keihin 41 Unlock Company Profile
Ford Motor 28 Unlock Company Profile
Xerotech 19 Unlock Company Profile
Samsung SDI 19 Unlock Company Profile
Porsche Automobil Holding 18 Unlock Company Profile
Toyota Motor 17 Unlock Company Profile
Bayerische Motoren Werke 16 Unlock Company Profile
Gentherm 16 Unlock Company Profile
Shin-Etsu Chemical 15 Unlock Company Profile
Showa Denko 12 Unlock Company Profile
Sumitomo Electric Industries 11 Unlock Company Profile
Honda Motor 10 Unlock Company Profile
Hyundai Motor Group 10 Unlock Company Profile
Robert Bosch Stiftung 9 Unlock Company Profile
Schneider Electric 9 Unlock Company Profile
BorgWarner 9 Unlock Company Profile
Sanden Holdings 9 Unlock Company Profile
Deep Science 9 Unlock Company Profile
BYD 8 Unlock Company Profile
Kia 8 Unlock Company Profile
Searete 8 Unlock Company Profile
Carl Zeiss Stiftung 7 Unlock Company Profile
NGK Insulators 6 Unlock Company Profile
Mazda Motor 6 Unlock Company Profile
Valeo Japan 6 Unlock Company Profile
Aotecar New Energy Technology 6 Unlock Company Profile
TI Fluid Systems 5 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsui Chemicals 5 Unlock Company Profile
Fujifilm Holdings 5 Unlock Company Profile
Zhejiang Sanhua Intelligent Controls 5 Unlock Company Profile
Faraday & Future 5 Unlock Company Profile
Benteler International 5 Unlock Company Profile
Renault 5 Unlock Company Profile
Granges 5 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Valeo is one of the leading innovators in fuel cell heat exchangers. The company has developed cladding an aluminium-silicon alloy with a brazing sheet that provides the alloy with the thin walls required for use in automobile heat exchangers, as well as such desirable characteristics as high strength, corrosion resistance, and formability. Other companies innovating in this technology domain are Denso, Mahle and Kia.

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.