Business / Corporate

Toyota to allow free access to 24,000 hybrid and electric vehicle tech patents to boost market

Kyodo

Toyota Motor Corp. said Wednesday it will allow royalty-free access to its nearly 24,000 patents for hybrid and other vehicles using electrification technology in a bid to expand competition in the market as the industry adopts stricter emissions regulations.

Rather than shutting rivals out, Toyota hopes that making its motor and battery technology accessible to other companies will broaden the market, in particular for hybrids, a field the auto giant leads with its Prius vehicles.

But it remains uncertain whether the use of Toyota patents will be as widespread as the carmaker hopes, observers said. Toyota said in January 2015 it will offer patents related to its fuel-cell vehicles but it has only led to a dozen contracts.

For the policy change, Toyota said it will offer around 23,740 patents related to electrification technology, with the grant period running from Wednesday to the end of 2030.

Toyota also hopes that opening up its technology for motors and batteries, which are key components of electric and fuel-cell vehicles, will increase their supply and help it to cut costs in developing such vehicles.

“The level of electrification technology required by global environmental regulations is becoming stricter year by year,” Toyota Vice President Shigeki Terashi said at a news conference in the city of Nagoya, near Toyota headquarters, underscoring efforts to strengthen cooperation with other companies.

The carmaker also said it will provide fee-based technical support to manufacturers developing and selling electric vehicles using Toyota’s motors, batteries and other technologies.

Chinese manufacturers are seen as likely to be interested in the gasoline-electric hybrid technology as the world’s largest auto market by volume also moves to implement stricter fuel economy regulations.

Since the release of the Prius in 1997, Toyota has kept its related technology under wraps. But it has now judged that it can retain a competitive edge even if it offers its technology to other automakers, company sources said.