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Ford releases EV patents

EVolution: Ford has about 650 EV patents but says letting anyone use them will speed up the development of electrified vehicles.

Derestricted patents will accelerate electric vehicle evolution: Ford

29 May 2015

FORD has followed the lead of startup electric vehicle-maker Tesla, allowing any rival access to its patented hybrid and electric vehicle technologies in a bid to accelerate the advancement of alternative energy locomotion.

Twelve months ago, Tesla announced it would allow anyone to see the secrets of its electric car designs by opening its patents to public eyes free of charge, but Ford's similar move requires “a fee.”

The car-maker is not saying how much it will cost to release any given patented information, but organisations wanting to peer into its previously closely guarded technology must apply through Ford's technology, commercialisation and licencing office.

Interested parties can also enquire through AutoHarvest – an organisation Ford helped set up that allows members to showcase technology and discuss the possibility of collaborative ventures.

While Ford may only currently offer six electric or hybrid vehicles in various markets around the world, it has successfully filed more than 650 EV patents with another 1000 pending.

Of the successful patents, more than 400 were filed last year constituting 20 per cent of the total 2000 Ford patents lodged in 2014.

Some of those protected innovations form the basis of the Focus Electric, Fusion Hybrid and Energi plug-in hybrid, C-Max Hybrid and Energi plug-in hybrid, and the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid drivetrains.

Like Tesla, Ford says the magnanimous decision to release previously protected information would remove one potential restriction in the advancement of electric and alternative energy vehicles.

Ford electrification programs director Kevin Layden said competition and collaboration in areas of emerging technology was healthy, and the way to better products.

“Innovation is our goal,” he said. “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. By sharing ideas, companies can solve bigger challenges and help improve the industry.”

In addition to the release of patents, Ford is increasing its own in-house development of EV tech and is in the process of hiring an extra 200 engineers with skills specific to electrification.

The new designers and development engineers will operate from Ford's newly dedicated engineering laboratories in Dearborn.

Examples of Ford's protected intellectual property include a regenerative braking system which alters the balance of power generation and actual wheel braking, depending on ambient air temperature, a battery-cell charge balancing system that extends range, and closed-loop driver behaviour analysis, which promotes more efficient driving.

In June last year Tesla's founder Elon Musk said his company would not issue lawsuits against anyone who used its technology.

“Tesla Motors was created to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport,” he said. “If we clear a path to the creation of compelling electric vehicles, but then lay intellectual property landmines behind us to inhibit others, we are acting in a manner contrary to that goal.”

The decision to open up significant innovations is not new to the motor industry, with Swedish car-maker Volvo's decision in 1965 that allowed any rival to use the design of its three-point seatbelt.

Authorising competing brands to copy the safety equipment subsequently saved millions of lives in car crashes.

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