Toyota Hybrid IP Under Attack Again

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
toyota hybrid ip under attack again

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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  • ToolGuy VW (marque not group) and Tesla very nearly switched positions on a YTD basis.
  • RHD Inexpensive gasoline appears to be a thing of the past. ILO is correct - we have enough sunlight, wind and emerging ocean wave energy to power the entire country and then some. Clean air is nice, and being free of the whims of OPEC, geopolitics and hugely profitable oil companies will do all of us a world of good.
  • Raymond Segura Can you tell me where I can get the rear bumper for 69 impala?
  • Art Vandelay some of the crazy numbers I get. Percentages look bigger with any fluctuations with low volume makes and brands leaving the market will see massive month over month changes. But what’s with Buick? I still see the occasional ad on TV and yet the drop is disproportionate even compared to all the other GM brands.
  • Master Baiter "There is no mandate for consumers to buy EVs, not in any country or state. That’s made up."Right. And you are not mandated to purchase a toilet that only uses 1.6 gallons/flush. You could choose to not have a toilet--just go in the woods, like the bears do.
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