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What is the Future of Powertrain?

12th March 2019 | Leave a comment

The Future Powertrain Conference (FPC) 2019 took place last week in Coventry, the home of the UK’s largest producer of automobiles and internal combustion engines. The focus of the event comes as no surprise as a host of suppliers – Tier 1s and more niche product providers – showcased their technical capabilities to deliver the future of vehicle propulsion, which is in electric vehicles. 

The event hosted an afternoon looking at intellectual property in more detail, in particular how patents play a fundamental role in understanding who the disruptors in the industry are and what new technologies they are innovating in.

Cipher Automotive provides technology landscapes through the use of artificial intelligence and classifiers in the patent domain. By comparing the active (granted and pending) patent families in the internal combustion and electric vehicle technology fields as classifiers, it’s possible to appreciate just significant the impact of electric vehicle powertrain is on the industry.

Chart 1: illustrates how, in a much shorter space of time, electric vehicle technologies have surpassed the levels reached by internal combustion technologies. This is one of many indicators that the industry is experiencing a technology shift away from conventional powertrain applications.


A similar story is told by analysing Patent Activity (Chart 2). After a sudden drop in publications between 2010 and 2011, the activity for internal combustion technologies continues to decline. The opposite trend can be seen for electric vehicle technologies. 

Chart 2: Patent activity: Internal combustion and electric vehicle technologies (Top 20 OEMs and suppliers)

 Chart 2: Patent activity:  Internal combustion and electric vehicle technologies (Top 20 OEMs and suppliers)

As the surge for more efficient and effective powertrain solutions continues, the automotive industry can expect a new generation of competitors. Electric vehicles contain software, hardware, graphics and sensory information on a level not previously implemented in passenger vehicles and, as a result, this presents opportunities for innovation where the market was once dominated by a handful of OEMs and suppliers.

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Cipher Automotive Patent Trends 2019 provides a strategic overview of patented technologies in the sector. 

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League tables of the top 25 owners by technology and region 

Analysis of automotive OEMs and suppliers owning more that 100 patented inventions