Toyota is almost synonymous in many people's minds with the idea of gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles. The Prius completely changed the landscape for alternative fuel vehicles when it came out and continues to be an important vehicle today.
Part of the reason why Toyota has been such a leader in hybrid development is its extremely robust collection of
on the technologies that make its Hybrid-Synergy Drive work. These patents have been acquired and defended over the years at great expense, always guarded jealously by the company, until now.
According to a report by Nikkei Asian Review Tuesday, Toyota will open many of its latest and greatest hybrid patents for use by other companies, royalty-free. Nikkei's report speculates that this move is born out of fear that
will no longer be relevant in a world where electric cars are increasingly common.
The road to Toyota's hybrid dominance wasn't always free of bumps. One of the most challenging points involved a lawsuit by Russian engineer Alex Severinsky, which Toyota eventually settled after six years of court battles.
The exact number and type of patents that will be made available for use have yet to be determined, according to Nikkei Asian Review, though we're curious as to how many car companies will bite at the opportunity now that EVs are on the rise.
Today, Toyota's still working hard on hybrid vehicles as well as hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles but has yet to build a production battery-electric vehicle to compete with the likes of Tesla, General Motors and Nissan.
Toyota didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.