Green Mobility: Historical Patents And Future of Hybrid Vehicles – Chapter 2

In the first article of the series, we offered insights into the evolution and future of hybrid vehicles, including technical aspects of the vehicle like the type of batteries employed. We also highlighted the history of hybrid vehicles, their growth story and their market analysis. In this article, we will enlighten you to the world of hybrid vehicle patents.

Historical Patents – Evolution & Brief Description

Although major work related to hybrid vehicles started in the late twentieth century, its history can be traced back to 1900s when the word – hybrid was not even in use. But, a concept similar to hybrid existed and was worked upon during those times. Given below is the evolution and brief description of the patents related to hybrid cars.

Patent NumberTitle
US745441A MOTOR-CAR
Assignee / InventorPublication Date Application DatePriority Date
EDOUARD HOSPITALIERDecember 01, 1903March 31, 1902March 31, 1902
motor car - hybrid vehicles

One of the oldest patents found in the field of hybrid vehicles is US745441A of assignee “HOSPITALIER EDOUARD” having the publication date December 01, 1903. The document discloses an auxiliary power source for facilitating the starting and the ascent of a vehicle on steep gradients. The autocars derive their motive power from the combined use of petroleum and electricity. These forms of vehicles were known as petro-accumobiles then. In these types of vehicles, motive force is alternately stored and discharged by electric accumulators through the intervention of a dynamo adapted to act both as a generator and as a motor.

Patent With The Highest Number Of Forward Citations

You may be surprised to know that there is one patent in the field of hybrid cars which has the highest number of forward citations till date. At a staggering number of 768 forward citations, it shows us that many patents filed after this have cited the said document. The use of this patent by many inventors/assignees as cited document indicates that it covers almost all the important aspects of hybrid vehicles and hence, can be termed as a breakthrough patent in the field of hybrid vehicles.

Patent NumberTitle
US9573585B2 HYBRID VEHICLES
Assignee/Inventee Publication Date Application DatePriority Date
THE ABELL FOUNDATION, INC February 21, 2017 January 14, 2013 September 14, 1998
hybrid vehicles models
hybrid vehicles model

The document discloses a hybrid vehicle comprising an internal combustion engine, a traction motor, a starter motor, and a battery bank, all controlled by a microprocessor in accordance with the vehicle’s instantaneous torque demands, so that the engine is run only under conditions of high efficiency.

Timeline of Patents

The decade-wise timeline of breakthrough patents in the field of hybrid technology from 1900 onwards is provided below. These are the relevant patents which have the most forward citations in a particular decade. It is to be noted here that only those patents have been considered for this study that were “Granted” at least once in their life-span, irrespective of their current legal status that could be either Alive or Dead.”

Here, the term Alive & Granted means that the patents were filed, granted the property rights for 20 years and are still active. The term Dead means the patents are inactive now, do not hold the property rights and are free to use by the community. So, in a nutshell, only those patents are included in the timeline which were granted the royalty rights by the examining authorities at least once irrespective of their current legal status.

timeline green mobility
historical patents and their claims

Important Patent Trends

Note: All the data, facts & trends presented here are restricted to our search strategies that were run on Questel Orbit database. The actual figures may vary depending upon the specific requirements and iterations.

The world map below shows the market coverage of the patents filed in various countries around the world:

The world map below shows the market coverage of the patents filed in various countries around the world:

patent families by protection country
  • China leads the market with around 20,024 patent families filed in the field of hybrid vehicles. This dominance is attributed to the introduction of utility model patents in China. These utility patents generally end with “U” or “Y” kind code and have only 10 years IP protection as compared to the regular invention patents which have 20 years of IP protection. These utility patents are not substantively examined and are granted just by a formal examination. China takes about 1-1.5 years to grant patents. As per our search, out of the 20, 024 patent families, around 5,000 families are utility model patents.
  • Japan (16,387) and US (15,685) follow China in the number of patent families filed for hybrid vehicles.
  • India has around 2,466 patent families filed in its jurisdiction.
  • Indonesia has only 49 filed patent families, the least among the countries which are involved in hybrid vehicle market.

The bar chart below shows the filing trend of the patent families for the last 20 years i.e. from 1999 to September 2019:

filing trend of patent families in last 20 years
  • In 2017 – 5,385 patent families were filed, the highest number of patents filed around the globe.
  • In terms of the patent families filed around the globe, 5,258 patent families were registered in 2016 while 5,180 patent families were registered in 2011.
  • The IP portfolio kept on increasing from 1999 till 2017 in a general trend.
  • However, the research and development (R&D) work dipped in 2018 to 2,717 patent families. Furthermore, 2019 witnessed the least R&D work and patent filings till September for the 20-year-period from 1999 to 2019.

The bar chart below indicates major players/assignees in the field of hybrid vehicles and the patent portfolio of various players around the world:

patent families by assignees
  • Toyota Motor leads the chart with around 10,965 patent families registered for them.
  • Hyundai Motor with 3,061 patent families and Nissan Motor with 2,795 patent families followed after Toyota Motor.
  • Among the top players/assignees depicted below, Zhejiang Geely Holding holds the smallest portfolio of around 319 patent families in the field of hybrid vehicles.

The below mentioned sites also depict the same distinction:

Important Mergers and Investments

Mergers

Seeing the above trends, it is quite evident that there is an immense scope in the field of hybrid vehicles. Therefore, we can see mergers & acquisitions of automotive companies, joint ventures of major universities for the research, development and production of hybrid vehicles.

  • Tata Motors Ltd. acquired Jaguar and Land Rover (JLR) from Ford Motors and is extensively involved in the development of hybrid and electric vehicles. The company is planning to launch its first battery electric vehicle, Jaguar I-PACE, in the second half of 2020 in India. Fiat and Chrysler merger dates back to 2009.
  • Volkswagen AG and Porsche SE Holding merger was enthralling. Volkswagen bought 50.1% of Porsche for €4.46 billion in 2012. Furthermore, Volkswagen is involved in the development and testing of hybrid and electric vehicles.
  • Renault-Nissan joined forces with Mitsubishi Motors to stand third in the automotive world, only behind Toyota Motors and Volkswagen Group. (Automotive IQ)
  • Toyota Motor Corp. and Suzuki Motor Corp. also deepened their ties by buying small stakes in each other. Toyota and Suzuki first came together in 2017 to develop hybrid and electric vehicles for the Indian market. Toyota then agreed to supply its hybrid technology to Suzuki Motor Corp. as part of the alliance. (Livemint)
  • Toyota has teamed up with universities to research electric-vehicle batteries for use in the hybrid vehicles.
  • Volvo and Geely have merged the development of hybrid and electric vehicles as well.
  • Universities such as Cardiff University, Cambridge University, University of South Australia, Durham University, Stanford University, University of Surrey, MIT, and Michigan University are extensively involved in R&D, filing patents and working in collaboration with automotive companies as well as each other for the progress of hybrid automobile sector.

Monetary Investments

With the future clearly heading towards Green Mobility, global carmakers are expected to invest at least $90 billion in the research & development of hybrid and electric vehicles:

  • Ford Motor is planning to invest $11 billion in hybrid and electric vehicles.
  • Daimler has stated that it will spend at least $11.7 billion for the introduction of hybrid and electric models in the market.
  • Toyota will be investing $2 billion in developing hybrid and electric vehicles in Indonesia over the next four years.
  • The German car giant Volkswagen stated that it will spend $66.3 billion in the field of hybrid and electric vehicles.
  • Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) will be investing around £1 billion for building hybrid and electric vehicles in the future. (Financial Times)
  • Fiat Chrysler’s luxury brand Maserati has planned to invest at least $1.75 billion to produce its hybrid and electric models, including a new super sports car and a new sport utility vehicle.
  • Nissan has decided to pump $9.5 billion in China for the next four years in the hybrid and electric automotive sector. (Auto NDTV)
  • The UK govt. has decided to inject £5 million into low carbon transport, including £1 million into Cardiff’s new transport research network. The University of Cambridge is leading one of the four government-funded projects into battery research in the UK, in order to accelerate the transition to hybrid and electric vehicles and a low-carbon economy. The government has pumped in £11.9 million for the University of Cambridge. (GreenFleet)

Future Of Hybrid Vehicles

All the above-mentioned points clearly suggest that the future is going to be dominated by hybrid vehicles, especially hybrid electric vehicles. Geographically, China leads the way in filing patents for hybrid cars owing to the introduction of utility model patents which are granted after a formal examination. Toyota Motor leads the IP race in hybrid vehicles. Furthermore, numerous companies and universities are now investing billions of dollars in this field. Hence, the future of hybrid car looks great!

To know more about hybrid vehicles, stay tuned for our next article in the series which will depict the major activities in the field of hybrid vehicles from the year 2000 and the emerging trends (assignees, start-ups, technologies) across the globe.

For more interesting reads, visit our blog.

– Rishabh Anurag (Engineering) and the Editorial Team

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