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.

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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

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

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Bombardier 16 Unlock Company Profile
Yaskawa Electric 13 Unlock Company Profile
Subaru 12 Unlock Company Profile
Toyota Motor 180 Unlock Company Profile
Valeo 68 Unlock Company Profile
BYD 58 Unlock Company Profile
Shenzhen Deren Electronic 18 Unlock Company Profile
Hyundai Motor 93 Unlock Company Profile
Aisin 29 Unlock Company Profile
Westinghouse Air Brake Technologies 16 Unlock Company Profile
State Grid Corporation of China 14 Unlock Company Profile
Nidec 23 Unlock Company Profile
Nissan Motor 82 Unlock Company Profile
Hitachi 254 Unlock Company Profile
Honda Motor 84 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsubishi Electric 50 Unlock Company Profile
Panasonic 29 Unlock Company Profile
Delta Electronics 36 Unlock Company Profile
Komatsu 12 Unlock Company Profile
Porsche Automobil 127 Unlock Company Profile
NOV 26 Unlock Company Profile
Mahle 24 Unlock Company Profile
Denso 78 Unlock Company Profile
Sumitomo Heavy Industries 14 Unlock Company Profile
Continental 15 Unlock Company Profile
Toshiba 40 Unlock Company Profile
Kia 79 Unlock Company Profile
Sumitomo Electric Industries 34 Unlock Company Profile
Ford Motor 110 Unlock Company Profile
Chongqing Jinkang New Energy Vehicle 24 Unlock Company Profile
Zeppelin-Stiftung 18 Unlock Company Profile
BD Auto and energy 10 Unlock Company Profile

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.

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.