The automotive industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by the need for cabin comfort, and emergence of autonomous vehicles, and growing importance of technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence. 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: vehicle PTC air heatersBuy 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 Foresight, 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 handing are useful technologies that are in the early stages of wider 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

Vehicle PTC air heaters is a key innovation area in automotive

Positive temperature coefficient (PTC) air heaters are self-regulating electric heaters used in addition to the heater core and are usually placed after the heater core or sometimes in ducts for footwell heating. PTC air heater cores have been added to climate control systems to compensate for insufficient heating on high-efficiency engines.

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 vehicle PTC air heaters.

Key players in vehicle PTC air heaters – 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 vehicle PTC air heaters

Company Total patents (2021 - 2023) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Daewoo Electronic Components 5 Unlock Company Profile
IRCA 4 Unlock Company Profile
Duckyang Industry 5 Unlock Company Profile
Valeo 168 Unlock Company Profile
Webasto 10 Unlock Company Profile
Robert Bosch Stiftung 2 Unlock Company Profile
BYD 24 Unlock Company Profile
Hyundai Motor 34 Unlock Company Profile
LG Display 3 Unlock Company Profile
Hanon Systems 77 Unlock Company Profile
Mazda Motor 8 Unlock Company Profile
General Motors 3 Unlock Company Profile
Mahle 153 Unlock Company Profile
China Steel 1 Unlock Company Profile
Boeing 9 Unlock Company Profile
Denso 14 Unlock Company Profile
Eltek 6 Unlock Company Profile
BorgWarner 62 Unlock Company Profile
Jahwa Electronics 15 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries 17 Unlock Company Profile
Kia 31 Unlock Company Profile
Ford Motor 3 Unlock Company Profile
ESW 4 Unlock Company Profile
DBK David+Baader 20 Unlock Company Profile
BERU Eichenauer 1 Unlock Company Profile
catem 22 Unlock Company Profile
Eichenauer Heizelemente 17 Unlock Company Profile
Eberspacher Gruppe 83 Unlock Company Profile
Valeo Climatisation 1 Unlock Company Profile
DENSOTRIM 1 Unlock Company Profile
Amosense 7 Unlock Company Profile
Doowon Climate Control 2 Unlock Company Profile
Kbautotech 1 Unlock Company Profile
Dongahhiteck 7 Unlock Company Profile
Wory Industry 10 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Valeo is the leading patent filer in the vehicle PTC air heaters innovation area. The company offers a wide range of PTC air heaters to adapt to the power needs and to speed up cabin warming when the engine is still cold. They are intended for use whenever there is a need for additional heating. The PTC heaters can be infinitely adjusted by means of an electronic control unit developed by Valeo. Mahle, Eberspacher, Hanon Systems, BorgWarner, and Hyundai are some of the other key players.

In terms of application diversity, Duckyang Industry held the top position, while Robert Bosch Stiftung and Ford Motor stood in second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, Boeing leads the pack, followed by BYD and Mazda Motor.

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.