Ford opens electric vehicle patent portfolio to competitors

The automaker's move is designed to enhance research and development in the EV field.


Ford has opened up its electric vehicle patent portfolio to other automakers in a bid to accelerate industry-wide research.

The Dearborn, Michigan-based firm announced the move on Thursday. Competitors now have access to over 640 patents owned by Ford relating to electric vehicles (EVs), ranging from battery charging to sensors.

The adoption of electric vehicles is facing a number of hurdles, including the high cost of investment in the short-term by consumers, so-called "range anxiety" -- the fear of running out of juice on the road without a suitable charging outlet -- a lack of charging stations and low battery capabilities. Eventually, fossil fuels will become untenable sources of fuel for our cars, and so an alternative has to be found -- and by opening up patent portfolios and allowing other automakers to further EV technology, Ford is making its own small contribution to the future of electric vehicles -- while also generating a profit in licensing fees.

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Ford says that by opening its portfolio to competitors, industry-wide EV research will benefit.

In 2014, the automaker filed for over 400 EV-related patents, which is over 20 percent of the total patents Ford applied for during the year. The company owns over 650 EV patents and has filed approximately 1,000 patent pending applications.

Some of the patents available to competitors include a patent covering passive cell balancing to extend battery life, a patent which describes technologies which maximize the amount of energy recaptured in a hybrid vehicle through regenerative braking, and a patent relating to monitoring driver inputs such as braking and accelerating.

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The firm also announced plans to hire an additional 200 EV specialist engineers in 2015.

Kevin Layden, director of Ford Electrification Programs commented:

"Innovation is our goal. The way to provide the best technology is through constant development and progress.

By sharing our research with other companies, we will accelerate the growth of electrified vehicle technology and deliver even better products to customers. As an industry, we need to collaborate while we continue to challenge each other."

In January, Toyota pledged to make thousands of its hydrogen fuel cell technology patents royalty-free and open for use by other companies to propel research and development of the eco-friendly energy system forward. As part of the automaker's promise, roughly 5,680 fuel cell related patents are now available for use -- including technologies used in the Toyota Mirai -- and roughly 1,970 fuel cell stack patents, 290 hydrogen cell tank, 3,350 fuel cell system software and 70 hydrogen production patents will eventually be released for royalty-free development.