Photo/IllutrationThe Toyota Mirai, the world’s first commercially available fuel-cell vehicle (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

Toyota Motor Corp. announced on April 3 it will give rivals royalty-free access to about 23,740 of its vehicle electrification patents cultivated through its developments of hybrid vehicles (HVs) to accelerate the “green car” market.

The auto giant also hopes the effort will cut costs and boost development of electric vehicles (EVs) that share fundamental parts in common with HVs.

“To curve carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions globally, the eco-friendly car needs to be spread further and expanded,” said Shigeki Terashi, executive vice president in charge of engineering at Toyota, during a news conference in Nagoya.

Revealing that the automaker had received many requests to open its patents, Terashi explained why Toyota decided to share its secrets, saying, “We considered that the next decade or so is a significant period to accelerate the spread of electrically powered cars.”

About 7,550 patents related to system control and about 2,590 patents related to motors are among those available for free through the end of 2030.

Toyota leads the industry in hybrid vehicles that run on two power sources: a gasoline engine and an electric motor system. The firm has sold a total of 13 million HV units, including the Prius gas-electric hybrid that went on sale in 1990s.

The HV's mainstay technologies for electrifying vehicles can be utilized in electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHVs) and fuel cell vehicles (FCVs).

The more automakers use patents based on Toyota’s technologies, the more Toyota can drive down manufacturing costs.

Electric vehicles are considered the most promising green cars for the next generation. However, it has been pointed out that Toyota, late to enter the market, lags behind other auto companies.

Toyota appears to have decided to share its patents for free to recoup lost ground in the EV market.

Terashi said Toyota’s turnaround strategy could be a key for solving problems with the next-generation eco-car since manufacturing batteries for electric vehicles is costly, and they have a relatively short travel range.

“Making efficient use of hybrid vehicles is a way to solve a real-world problem,” said Terashi. “The HV technology can minimize CO2 emissions.”

Rising awareness of environmental issues has led to tighter fuel consumption regulations in countries worldwide.

All automakers must meet average fuel economy standards for the vehicles they sell and increasing hybrid vehicle sales helps them to fulfill these regulations.

By offering them its patents, Toyota can also absorb demand from automakers that got a late start in the hybrid vehicle industry.

The carmaker also said it will start selling its vehicle electrification technology for hybrids and provide technical assistance for automakers that purchase it.

Toyota said it will extend the limit for its royalty-free access to its FCV patents from the end of 2020 to the end of 2030.