Toyota to Rivals: Take This Hybrid Tech and Build It

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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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