By on July 26, 2011

Over the last several years, Toyota has fought off suits by a firm called Paice, which claimed to own patents on technology used in Toyota’s hybrid drivetrains. Toyota settled that dispute a year ago, but now Bloomberg reports that another firm is going after Toyota’s hybrid Intellectual Property (IP). According to the report

Efficient Drivetrains Inc., based in Palo Alto, California, has an exclusive license from the University of California for use of the technology, including the way electricity is drawn from a battery to power an electric motor and an internal combustion engine, according to a July 20 federal court complaint filed by Toyota in San Jose… The five patents at issue also include technology, invented by EDI co-founder Andy Frank, on ways to control the power output of an internal combustion engine and a method to draw electricity to operate the electric motor and the internal combustion engine, together or separately depending on driving conditions

You can read Toyota’s complete filing here.

EDI‘s founder, Andy Frank, is known as “the godfather of plug-in hybrids” from his time researching the drivetrains at the University of California, and the firm claims to offer

Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) and Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) technologies to the global automotive industry. The company also offers design engineering and licensing of technology to automotive manufacturers, their component suppliers, transportation systems companies, and government and military contractors in conjunction with volume build opportunities.

But so far, the company’s news site shows no signs of commercialization projects besides a one-off prototype of a Porsche Speedster [PDF] using a 1 liter EnviroTek engine along with its hybrid technology (look for Porsche to file suit against EDI for use of the “Porsche Speedster” name). Like Paice, EDI seems to be having little luck getting OEMs to license its technology, so it’s suing Toyota for royalties. And since Toyota settled with Paice, it’s not inconceivable that the strategy will work again for EDI… but like Paice, the patents appear to be incredibly broad.

One patent is for:

A charge depletion method and apparatus for operating the electric motor and small auxiliary power unit, such as an internal combustion engine, in a hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) separately or together depending upon the driving conditions. Operation of the electric motor and auxiliary power unit are coordinated so that the vehicle operates as zero emissions vehicle (ZEV) or electric car at all speeds below a highway cruising threshold, unless the depth of discharge of the batteries exceeds a charge threshold in which case the vehicle operates in an HEV mode. Further, the vehicle operates in an HEV mode at speeds above the cruising threshold. The batteries are depleted during operation and are not charged by the auxiliary power unit, except during emergencies in which case the batteries are only charged enough to provide a performance enhancement to the small auxiliary power unit.

Another is for:

A method and apparatus for controlling the power output of an internal combustion engine in a vehicle, wherein a motor/generator or a generator/motor is coupled to the output shaft of the engine and the positive and negative torque of the motor/generator or the generator/motor is varied to control the power output of the engine as a function of speed for all manners of performance of the vehicle. The engine operates along a predetermined ideal operating line at all speeds of the vehicle.

Another is for:

A charge depletion method and apparatus for operating the electric motor and auxiliary power unit, such as an internal combustion engine, in a hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) separately or together depending upon the driving conditions. Operation of the electric motor and auxiliary power unit are coordinated as a function of a control policy for the auxiliary power unit based on desired least fuel consumption and/or vehicle emissions characteristics.

Another is for:

A method and apparatus for controlling the power output of an internal combustion engine in a vehicle, wherein a motor/generator or a generator/motor is coupled to the output shaft of the engine and the positive and negative torque of the motor/generator or the generator/motor is varied to control the power output of the engine as a function of speed for all manners of performance of the vehicle. The engine operates along a predetermined ideal operating line at all speeds of the vehicle.

And the last is for:

A control method for operating internal combustion engine electric hybrid vehicles with smaller battery packs, particularly in configurations where an electric motor (E/M) or electric motor/generator (E/MG), a battery, and associated controls are inserted between the engine and a continuously variable or automatic transmission. The interaction between the combustion engine and battery operated electric motor is controlled by taking energy into the batteries only if it is more efficient than throttling the engine and operating the engine at a lower efficiency. Additionally, the batteries are charged to a certain state or the batteries are maintained at a particular state of charge. A goal of the invention is to obtain the best possible fuel economy while maintaining good driveability.

We’ll see what the courts say about this latest controversy over hybrid IP, but in the meantime, anyone who wants to dig into these patents is more than welcome to contribute thoughts in the comments section below…

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8 Comments on “Toyota Hybrid IP Under Attack Again...”


  • avatar
    NormSV650

    So if Ford settled with Paice, is Ford also paying Toyota based on your article title?

    • 0 avatar
      aristurtle

      Unless something changed recently, Ford has been paying Toyota for quite some time now.

      • 0 avatar
        Steven02

        I don’t think Ford paid Toyota with cash. I believe it was a cross licensing agreement in which Ford let Toyota have some emissions licenses. Honestly, I can’t find anything that says if there was or is still cash payments from Ford to Toyota on this. From the stuff I have read, Ford didn’t pay any cash. It was licensing for Ford tech that was payment.

      • 0 avatar
        NormSV650

        Ford settle with Paice just like Toyota did. Ford did lease from Toyota but then did develop it’s own system.

        http://m.jalopnik.com/5592533/this-man-fought-toyota-for-stealing-his-hybrid-tech-and-won

        GM did not fall into similar trap, tisk-tisk greety Ford, but developed their own system. Toyota and Ford got greety and now has to pay. Looks like Toyota has since developed their own system like Lutz said a manufacture could.

        http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&refer=columnist_levin&sid=azDp8xWV5rsU

        This guy is a professor and if you’ve spent time at a major university you know that’s all they do is right on napkins at lunch and dinner.

      • 0 avatar
        rnc

        When Toyota tried to sue Ford they realized that Ford owned about 45% of the patents related to the common hybrid system they both use (Clinton Program), so if toyota proceeded they would have received X $ for every hybrid Ford sold, but Ford would have recieved Y $, based on number of hybrids toyota sells vs. the number that ford sells who would have ended up on the winning side, therefore there is a nice cross licensing agreement with no money changing hands at any point.

  • avatar
    cdotson

    Has EDI gone after GM yet? The patent you reference first sounds an awful lot like the operation of the Volt.

  • avatar
    MikeAR

    EDI is nothing more than a patent mill, abusing the system to their benefit. They ought to be shut down and prosecuted.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    Ford settle with Paice just like Toyota did. Ford did lease from Toyota but then did develop it’s own system.

    http://m.jalopnik.com/5592533/this-man-fought-toyota-for-stealing-his-hybrid-tech-and-won

    GM did not fall into similar trap, tisk-tisk greedy Ford, but developed their own system. Toyota and Ford got greedy and now has to pay. Looks like Toyota has since developed their own system like Lutz said a manufacture could.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&refer=columnist_levin&sid=azDp8xWV5rsU

    This guy is a professor and if you’ve spent time at a major university you know that’s all they do is right on napkins at lunch and dinner.

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