By on April 3, 2019

On Wednesday, Toyota announced plans to offer royalty-free access to its cache of hybrid technology patents. While the automaker already licenses aspects of its Hybrid Synergy Drive to other automakers, the new strategy seeks to drastically expand the use of its systems as the world gears up for widespread electrification.

Toyota, cautious as ever, has been understandably hesitant to throw itself headlong into costly BEV development programs. It did have the foresight, however, to jump into hybrid technology earlier than most other manufacturers, and doesn’t want to see that edge lost as battery-only vehicles grow in popularity. Providing open access to the nearly 24,000 patents on hardware used in the Prius and Mirai could help the company stack the deck in its favor. 

“We want to look beyond producing finished vehicles,” Toyota Executive Vice President Shigeki Terashi, was quoted to have said by Automotive News. “We want to contribute to an increase in take up (of electric cars) by offering not just our technology but our existing parts and systems to other vehicle makers.”

After hoarding the Prius’ hardware for years and taking the lion’s share of the hybrid vehicle market, the time is apparently right for Toyota to share more openly. Costly investments in advanced technologies has encouraged the industry to cooperate more, something Toyota is particularly adept at.

“Based on the high volume of inquiries we receive about our vehicle electrification systems from companies that recognize a need to popularize hybrid and other electrified vehicle technologies, we believe that now is the time for cooperation,” Terashi said in the announcement. “If the number of electrified vehicles accelerates significantly in the next 10 years, they will become standard, and we hope to play a role in supporting that process.”

Toyota said it will make technical support available to help manufacturers reach performance goals with purchased vehicle electrification systems:

As for the fee-based technical support Toyota will offer, specifics include providing overviews of vehicle electrification systems, control guides, and detailed explanations of tuning guides for vehicles that will utilize its systems. The guidance that Toyota will provide, for example, includes helping other automakers to achieve high-level product performance in terms of fuel efficiency, output, and quietness fit for the vehicles they are working to develop. The services will be contract-based. More details will be provided to interested parties.

It’s a clever way to get around pure EVs (which Toyota lacks) and support the company’s own established hybrid tech. We’ll have to see how it plays out. If other automakers take a bite, which seems likely, the company could theoretically prop up hybrids with its own hardware. Not a bad place to be in the grand scheme of things.

[Image: Toyota]

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25 Comments on “Toyota to Rivals: Take This Hybrid Tech and Build It...”


  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Total BS.

    Hybrids (including Toyota’s) have had their (20-year) day in the sun, but are now a dying species. Toyota is a day late and a dollar short on offering this technology. Almost everyone already offers a hybrid today, and they don’t need Toyota’s technology now.

    Frankly, I’m sure everyone who offers a hybrid has already studied Toyota’s technology and found their own ways around the patents. Toyota’s patents are worthless now.

    BEVs are only getting better, as are conventional ICEs, and hybrids are becoming the red-headed stepchild in the automotive family. Cheap gas doesn’t help the case for hybrids, and neither does their wonky driveability.

    As for the Mirai – that turd needs to die, and only Hyundai is crazy enough to continue messing around with fuel cell vehicles.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      I logged in (several times, actually) to say mostly the same thing. Toyota’s missing the boat on BEVs and is trying to tread water with it’s hybrid system. I also think any company that’s currently selling a hybrid system has done the reverse engineering and they don’t need Toyota’s help.

      I think we’ll find that hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are a dead end; there are so many problems with trying to get hydrogen and then safely use it. I’ve seen the general public use gasoline pumps (badly), imagine the fireworks if these same people were to use hydrogen refueling…

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        There’s not much of a boat to miss on BEVs. When the air of unmet expectations starts seeping out of that hype balloon, it’s not at all impossible BEV early adopters, spoiled by the advantages BEVs offer in many situations, will be receptive to a plug in hybrid in order to get around their stubborn shortcomings in other areas.

        I’m only speculating here, as I have no particular insight into Toyota’s reasoning, but I wouldn’t bet against Toyota realizing BEVs are simple enough to produce, that there will be a myriad of small players in that space, each selling narrowly specialized vehicles; rather than a few giants, as has become the case with traditional cars due to their complexity. And that, having sat there and watched even mighty Japan being increasingly Boschified, they are hence realizing that going forward, being The Man may well come a distant second to being The Man Behind the Man.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        Most competitor hybrid systems suck. Look at the fuel economy

    • 0 avatar
      993cc

      These patents must be pretty old by now. Wouldn’t they be about to expire anyway?

      • 0 avatar
        gomez

        I was thinking the same thing. The Prius came out in 1997 so the first patents have likely already expired. Seems like Toyota is using the patent expirations as a PR stunt by pretending it is a gesture of goodwill.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      you realize they may have patents on individual features or designs in their electric drive systems that may be directly applicable to EVs, right? WTH do you act like hybrids are their own completely distinct thing which have no relation whatsoever to EVs? It’s not like their patent is “vehicle which can be propelled by either an ICE or electric motor, or a combination of those.” maybe they have patents on a more efficient regeneration strategy, or a more robust inverter design.

      it’s pretty ignorant to scoff at this just because “they’re only hybrids.”

      take the ICE and gas tank out of a hybrid and you have an EV.

    • 0 avatar
      markd623

      Hybrid technology will bridge the gap and be viable for quite some time.

      Full electric may not be right for everyone, but once the masses get a taste of electric drive, it’s over for the ice, as it should be.

      Chrysler has been cagey about Pacifica Hybrid torque. A 16kw kick means you will dominate in passing situations or any mountain pass.

      It’s a full second quicker from 50-70 according to C/D and gets 30 mpg hwy at 80 on the highway (my experience after a 7500 mi road trip).

      Meet me on a mountain pass.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      I strongly disagree. Until batteries are no longer a constrained resource, and clean power is no longer fringe, conventional hybrids are the simplest and most battery efficient means of emissions reduction in cars. 1kwh in a hybrid reduces carbon emissions way more than that same kilowatt in a BEV.

      BEV payback is also essentially nonexistent.

    • 0 avatar
      Zipster

      Red-headed step child? You may also believe that windmills cause cancer.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        I happen to have an ICE, hybrid, and BEV in my fleet.

        The hybrid requires just as much maintenance as my ICE, and its fuel economy isn’t meaningfully better than a Nissan Kicks or Versa, for example. I’ve grown to hate its driveability, but I’m not the one who uses it daily. I keep it because it’s paid for.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          and that has what to do with patents?

          • 0 avatar
            SCE to AUX

            I was replying to Zipster, who challenged my assertion that hybrids are a washed up breed.

            As such, Toyota’s patents are worthless.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            “As such, Toyota’s patents are worthless.”

            see my reply above. You have ZERO basis to make that claim. Hybrids have the same kind of motor/generator, inverter, high-power electronics, and battery as EVs do. There’s likely a ton of s**t Toyota has patented that could be applicable to BEVs. but, in your mind, because they don’t make any BEVs yet you’re dismissing them based on nothing but your own bald-faced ignorance.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Hybrid penetration will be increasing significantly over the next 4-5 years, even in “conventional” vehicles where the tech isn’t actively marketed to the customer. CAFE compliance requires it. Hybrids aren’t sexy in the mind of the consumer as perhaps they once were for some, but it doesn’t matter, they’re going to get it anyway.

  • avatar
    993cc

    Pedant Mode ON.

    ” the high volume of inquiries” – So are these inquiries three dimensional, or just really, really loud?

    Pedant Mode Off.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      They’re actually 4-dimensional: originally encompassing every auto mfr in the world, but shrinking with time. /s

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      “volume” is an acceptable word to describe “amount.” Has been for a long time. any company which sells stuff refers to sales volumes when describing how many things they sell in a given time period.

      pedantry FAIL.

      • 0 avatar
        993cc

        Pedant Mode ON (again)

        “Volume” IS an acceptable synonym for amount. However, “amount” should only be used to refer to things that cannot be individually counted. It is correct to refer to an “amount of rain” but incorrect, though common recently, to refer to an “amount of people”. Inquiries are individual events, which can be counted, thus it is also incorrect, though common, to refer to a “volume of inquires”.

        The correct term would be “number of people”, “number of calls”, “number of inquiries”.

        Things that cannot be individually counted CAN be referred to as countable units, such as “number of inches of rainfall”, but it does not work in the reverse.

        “volume of sales” is ambiguous, because while an individual sale can be counted, if you are really trying to measure the size of a certain category of movement of money, then “amount” is correct, unless it is converted to countable units, such as “dollars of sales”. The equivalent would be “volume of immigration” vs. “number of immigrants”

        Pedant Mode OFF.

        Opinionated comment: If you are looking for examples of correct usage to cite, it is a mistake to look to the world of business, which routinely abuses language.

        “Architecting”? Jesssus Fekking Chriiiiiiiiiiist!

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          language evolves with usage. Dictionaries *catalog* usage, they don’t rule it.

          • 0 avatar
            993cc

            True.

            There is no doubt that a Victorian era schoolmarm would find much to fault in my writing, and many puzzling words in my vocabulary. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t resist the drift toward imprecision, especially among professional communicators like whoever wrote or translated that announcement for Toyota Executive Vice President Shigeki Terashi.

        • 0 avatar
          Featherston

          @ 993cc – A good friend of mine is an architect, and it annoys him when that noun gets incorporated into job titles in completely unrelated fields.

          I organized a practical joke in which our mutual friends and I included “architect” into our work e-mail signatures whenever we e-mailed him. Our attorney friend became a “legal architect,” for example. Since we tend to skip over e-mail signatures, it was a few days before he noticed.

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            The Millennial practice of improper use of a gerund drives me nuts! Something “needs documented,” for example. No, it “needs to be documented” or (using the gerund), “needs documenting!”

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            “The Millennial practice of improper use of a gerund drives me nuts! Something “needs documented,” ”

            uh, that’s not a Millennial thing, that’s a Pittsburgh thing.


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