The automotive industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity in variable transmission electric vehicle (EV) drivetrains is driven by rising demand for EVs, emissions regulations, materials science advancements, and cost-effective manufacturing processes, and growing importance of technologies such as continuously variable transmission (CVT), dual-motor systems, beltless CVT, and integrated systems. 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: variable transmission EV drivetrains. 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 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

Variable transmission EV drivetrains is a key innovation area in automotive

Variable transmission EV drivetrains refer to drivetrain systems in electric vehicles that use in-wheel motor systems to generate power and provide varying gear ratios for efficient power delivery. These drivetrains make use of motors placed in the wheels of an EV, which can provide more precise and efficient power delivery to the wheels.

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 variable transmission EV drivetrains.

Key players in variable transmission EV drivetrains – 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 variable transmission EV drivetrains

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Hyundai Mobis 30 Unlock Company Profile
American Axle & Manufacturing 19 Unlock Company Profile
Dana 63 Unlock Company Profile
NTT 237 Unlock Company Profile
QinetiQ Group 35 Unlock Company Profile
Toyota Motor 185 Unlock Company Profile
Schaeffler 54 Unlock Company Profile
Robert Bosch Stiftung 41 Unlock Company Profile
NSK 85 Unlock Company Profile
BYD 20 Unlock Company Profile
Siemens 18 Unlock Company Profile
Hyundai Motor 32 Unlock Company Profile
Aisin 26 Unlock Company Profile
Cummins 19 Unlock Company Profile
Nissan Motor 40 Unlock Company Profile
Yamaha Motor 22 Unlock Company Profile
Hitachi 16 Unlock Company Profile
NTN 131 Unlock Company Profile
Suzuki Motor 36 Unlock Company Profile
Honda Motor 363 Unlock Company Profile
Mazda Motor 26 Unlock Company Profile
Deere 21 Unlock Company Profile
Porsche Automobil 58 Unlock Company Profile
Bayerische Motoren Werke 33 Unlock Company Profile
Yanmar 16 Unlock Company Profile 20 Unlock Company Profile
Allison Transmission 17 Unlock Company Profile
Kia 23 Unlock Company Profile
Ford Motor 49 Unlock Company Profile
Stellantis 17 Unlock Company Profile
Nikola 22 Unlock Company Profile
Superpedestrian 56 Unlock Company Profile
Indigo Technologies 25 Unlock Company Profile
Stella Vermogensverwaltungs 25 Unlock Company Profile
Zeppelin-Stiftung 71 Unlock Company Profile
BD Auto and energy 63 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Honda Motor is one of the top patent filers  in variable transmission EV drivetrains. This technology improves efficiency, acceleration, performance, and comfort of electric vehicles, potentially leading to wider adoption and reduced emissions. Some other key patent filers in this space include  NTT and Toyota Motor.

In terms of application diversity, Superpedestrian leads the pack, while BYD and Indigo Technologies stood in the second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, Nikola held the top position, followed by Amazon and Dana.

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.