The Greater Good

Toyota hopes its decision to offer nearly 24,000 of its patents royalty-free will help usher in a new era of vehicle electrification

December 10, 2019
Tech for the Taking -- Toyota has made patents to some 24,000 of its vehicle electrification technologies, including components of its hybrid powertrain, available royalty free.

Toyota is a business. By definition, it must generate a profit to remain viable. But there are times when promoting the greater good matters more than improving the bottom line.
 
Take, for instance, the shift from vehicles powered by internal combustion engines to those propelled by electricity. Conventional wisdom holds that this transformation is essential to slowing or reversing the pace of climate change.
 
And Toyota, the company that popularized hybrid technology, is uniquely positioned to help lead the way.
 
In hopes of speeding up the process, Toyota announced earlier this year it would grant royalty-free licenses on nearly 24,000 patents it holds (including some pending applications) for vehicle electrification-related technologies. Separately, Toyota said it will provide fee-based technical support to other manufacturers developing and selling electrified vehicles that use Toyota’s motors, batteries, power control units (PCU) and other such technologies as part of their powertrain systems.
 
“We believe now is the time for cooperation,” says TMC Executive Vice President Shigeki Terashi. “If the number of electrified vehicles accelerates significantly in the next 10 years, they will become standard. We hope to play a supporting role in that process.”
 
Hydrogen Helper -- Included on the list of royalty-free patents are more than 8,000 related to the development of the hydrogen fuel cell system that powers the Toyota Mirai.

The move builds on Toyota’s decision in 2015 to offer 5,680 patents related to its fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) royalty free. In its latest announcement, Toyota said it was adding to that list approximately 2,590 patents related to electric motors, 2,020 to PCUs, 7,550 to system controls, 1,320 to engine transaxles, 2,200 to chargers and 2,380 to fuel cells.
 
Ultimately, vehicles that emit less or no carbon dioxide will move the needle on climate change only if they come into widespread use. And that will only happen if such technologies proliferate and are offered at prices that are competitive with the status quo.
 
Toyota is committed to doing its part to usher in this new era of mobility as it works to meet the targets it set in 2015 with the Toyota Environmental Challenge 2050. Further evidence of this can be found in the company’s announcement in June that it would sell 5.5 million electrified vehicles by 2025, five years ahead of its original timeline.
 
By Dan Miller
 

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