Toyota has a proven record of success with green technologies, thanks to the mainstream acceptance of the Prius and the hybrid vehicles that followed, and is set to make the same leap into hydrogen fuel cell technology with the Mirai, going on sale in Japan and the USA.
But it doesn’t stop there, in fact a recent study by Thomson Reuters has revealed that between 2011 and 2015 Toyota was granted 9807 patents for alternative powertrain vehicles.
To put that into perspective, the second-highest number of patents was awarded to component and systems maker Bosch, at a comparatively paltry 3057 patents.
The Thomson Reuters investigation also examined industry-wide patents, outside of green technology, and once again Toyota led the field.
In 2015 alone, Toyota was awarded 4214 patents for new in-car technologies, giving the Japanese company a decent head-start on second-placed Hyundai at 2469 patents.
Component makers Bosch and Denso held the next two spots, with Honda in fifth place with 2039 patents.
While the numbers aren’t conclusive, and some patented ideas don’t go beyond their registration stage, it suggests that Toyota is well and truly outpacing its competitors when it comes to vehicle innovations, particularly in the field of alternative energy.
Surprisingly, despite outspending rivals on research and development, the Volkswagen Group didn’t crack the top ten list of patent applications, despite a US$15.3 billion R&D expenditure, compared to Toyota’s US$9.2 billion spend.
The trend towards green innovations has not-unexpectedly been a growth area in the last five years, with the trend set to continue for the foreseeable future, according to Reuters analyst Bob Stembridge.