Toyota will allow other companies to use nearly 24,000 patents related to its hybrid car technology, the Japanese automaker announced Wednesday. The patents will be available to license for royalty-free use until 2030, and Toyota will also offer consultation services for a fee. Toyota had previously licensed its hybrid technology to automakers like Nissan, Mazda, and Subaru before today’s announcement.
Toyota is the most prolific maker and seller of hybrid vehicles in the world, with about 80 percent of the market, according to Reuters. The automaker’s also been at it for a really long time — its first hybrid, the Prius, debuted in Japan in 1997 and started its worldwide spread in 2000. Since then, Toyota has sold more than 13 million hybrid vehicles, and currently offers hybrid versions of seven different models (including three types of Prius).
Automakers around the globe have spent the last few years developing plans to sell hybrid and electric vehicles, largely in response to governments in Europe and China tightening emissions regulations. (The United States, on the other hand, is trying to loosen its own existing emissions regulations.) They’ve each dedicated billions of dollars to the shift, too. Borrowing from the industry-leading technology that Toyota has developed could theoretically soften the blow of some of those commitments to research and development.
This is not the first time Toyota has opened up access to some of its patents. In 2015, the automaker made nearly 6,000 patents related to its hydrogen car technology available, also royalty-free. Hydrogen (or “fuel cell”) technology has still not caught on, though, in part because the networks of dedicated filling stations required haven’t been built out as fast as, say, electric chargers have for fully electric vehicles.
Tesla also famously opened up access to its electric vehicle patents in 2014, though there’s little evidence that any major automakers have used the technology developed by Silicon Valley’s most popular car company.