The automotive industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by factors such as the rise in power density, growing use of power electronics, increased demand for energy efficiency, and expansion of renewable energy systems, and growing importance of technologies such as thermal interface materials, liquid cooling systems, and phase change materials. 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: power converter cooling. 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 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
Power converter cooling is a key innovation area in automotive
Power converter cooling refers to the process of removing excess heat generated during the operation of current converters such as inverters or DC-DC converters. Cooling of these devices is essential for high performance and longevity.
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 power converter cooling.
Key players in power converter cooling – 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 power converter cooling
Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics
Hitachi, one of the leading patent filers in power converter cooling, has developed a number of innovative power converter cooling technologies, including liquid cooling, air cooling, heat pipes, and phase-change materials, which are used in a wide range of applications such as electric vehicles, power grids, and industrial equipment. Some other key patent filers in the space include Toyota Motor, Porsche Automobil, and Ford Motor.
In terms of application diversity, Sumitomo Heavy Industries leads the pack, while BD Auto and Energy and Hitachi stood in the second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, Sumitomo Electric Industries held the top position, followed by Sumitomo Heavy Industries and Toshiba.