Toyota Motor Corp said it would offer royalty-free access to its hybrid-vehicle technology patents through 2030, as it seeks to expand use of lower emissions vehicles before the global auto industry shifts to all-battery electric cars.

The Japanese automaker said it would grant licenses on nearly 24,000 patents on technologies covering hybrid power systems, which comprise motors, power converters and batteries.

“Based on the high volume of inquiries we receive about of vehicle electrification systems from companies that recognise a need to popularize hybrid and other electrified vehicle technologies, now is the time for cooperation,” Toyota Executive Vice President Shigeki Terashi said in a statement on Wednesday. The Nikkei Asian Review first reported Toyota's plans to give royalty-free access to hybrid-vehicle patents.

Since pioneering the Prius, the world's first mass-produced hybrid car, in 1997, Toyota has sold more than 13 million cars featuring the technology, which twins a conventional gasoline engine and electric motor, saving fuel by capturing energy during coasting and breaking and using it to power the motor. Hybrid vehicles account for around 3 per cent of all vehicles sold globally, eclipsing the roughly 1 percent share of all-battery electric vehicles (EVs), according to LMC Automotive. Toyota vehicles account for more than 80 per cent of the hybrid vehicle market.

Global automakers have pledged to electrify their offerings in coming years amid tightening global emissions regulations, but many acknowledge that shifting to all-battery EVs will take time due to the high cost of the required batteries. Toyota has long held to its belief that its hybrids, whose fuel efficiency is roughly double that of gasoline cars, are a cost-effective alternative to all-battery EVs, due to their lower cost, lack of need for charging infrastructure, and because they operate more or less like gasoline cars.

Beyond hybrids, Toyota is betting on hydrogen fuel cell vehicles as the ultimate zero-emissions vehicle, and as a result, it has lagged many of its rivals in marketing all-battery EVs.

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