The name Paice will be familiar to anyone who's been deep in the weeds of hybrid history, but it will probably be new to anyone who simply drives one. The key part of the story is something called "HyperDrive," which is the name given to a gas-electric powertrain technology developed by Alex Severinsky and patented in 1994. HyperDrive is a way to get the energy from both the electric battery and the engine into the wheels, seamlessly. The patents are held by Paice, which is an unusual company (its HQ is a house in a retirement community, right by a golf course) that does nothing but litigate. You can read more on Paice here.

The latest case targets Ford and the hybrid and plug-in versions of the C-Max and Fusion models as well as the Lincoln MKZ. Paice claims that it held "over 100 meetings and interactions with Ford" between 1999 and 2004, and gave the automaker, "detailed information about the hybrid technology that Paice had developed." The suit also alleges that:

For more than five years, Paice answered inquiries from multiple departments within Ford, believing in good faith that a business relationship between Paice and Ford would be mutually beneficial and advance the acceptance of Paice's technology. ... After years of Ford learning the details of Paice's hybrid drivetrain technology, Ford elected not to enter into a business relationship with Paice.

The suit is officially known as, "Paice LLC v. The Ford Motor Co., 14-492, U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland (Baltimore)" and you can read the PDF here. Ford told AutoblogGreen, "we do not comment on pending litigation."

Toyota settled a similar patent-infringement case in 2010 and now pays Paice almost $100 for every hybrid it sells. Paice is still in court against Hyundai and Kia. In 2010, Ford also settled with Paice but they agreed to keep negotiating on other issues until at least January 1, 2014. With that date now in the past, it didn't take long for Paice to file papers to get the two sides back before a judge. That's where it appears to be most comfortable.


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  • 13 Comments
      BipDBo
      • 9 Months Ago
      This guy is just making crap up. Ford did not consult him and get all of his secrets. The Prius was already in production at the time. Ford had absolutely no need for this guy's "secrets." Severinsky probably just called into Ford and talked to the receptionist a hundred times so that he could have a phone record. My guess is that he has no evidence of any conversations of substance.
      Smoking_dude
      • 9 Months Ago
      How is that possible? 100$ per sold Hybrid that makes a nice living. Oh autoblog. at every comment I get: We're sorry your comment could not be added due to technical difficulties. Please try after some time.
      Jesse Gurr
      • 9 Months Ago
      Looking at the complaint itself I see that the patents they are talking about were issued in 2006 or later. I don’t do a lot of patent litigation but can they sue for patent infringement when there was no patent issued when the Escape hybrid went into production? The one from 1998 was mentioned as using a voltage system of 500V or greater. No hybrid system I know of goes that high. What about all those patents that Ford got for its new hybrid system? I don’t get this paragraph of the suit, page 16: “Another aspect of eCVT-based hybrid topology is limited towing capacity. The range of output torque that is required for heavy towing capacity will easily exceed the range that is reasonably practical for an eCVT. Paice’s patented technology provides critical benefits to all types of hybrid systems, whether or not an eCVT-based topology is used.” Is it saying that the patent is good whether you use an eCVT or not? So they just patent some abstract general idea and call it good? Also, here is the patent study done by Griffith Hack that has been mentioned by PAICE: http://www.griffithhack.com.au/Assets/1908/1/GH_Ambercitehybridcarreport_Jan2011V4.pdf
      David Murray
      • 9 Months Ago
      Well at least they only have one more year to troll on patents...
        Joeviocoe
        • 9 Months Ago
        @David Murray
        I wonder if that is why Honda is discontinuing the Insight. Is Honda going to try for a PSD type hybrid like the Prius?
          • 9 Months Ago
          @Joeviocoe
          @skierpage: Looking at the diagram there, it appears that the difference between Toyota's and Honda's system is that Honda's system can decouple the engine completely from the drivetrain. The second motor/generator (labelled 'generator' in that diagram) is only connected to the engine. With the clutch engaged, Honda's system operates exactly like Toyota HSD: the speed of the engine can be changed without changing the road speed by controlling how fast the generator rotates. With it disengaged, the motor can drive the car without the engine or generator rotating. The car could also actually act as a series hybrid, running the engine with the clutch disengaged to generate power passed to the motor; it can also charge the battery at a standstill without some of the odd vibration that sometimes occurs on the Prius (particularly when it's cold and the engine is a bit unpredictable). In Toyota's system, when the larger motor (MG2) is driving the car, the smaller motor/generator (MG1) has to rotate to prevent the engine from turning over. This is a small source of losses. In addition, the gearing means that the engine has to turn over above a certain speed, to stop MG1 going above its maximum speed. On the regular Prius this is about 45mph, on the plug-in it's 62mph. (Even though the engine turns over, it does so without fuel or spark.)
          skierpage
          • 9 Months Ago
          @Joeviocoe
          The Honda Accord hybrid's two-motor + Atkinson engine sounds close to Toyota HSD but it doesn't use a power split e-CVT like HSD and Voltec so maybe it escapes Toyota's patents. Looking at http://www.caranddriver.com/features/explaining-the-honda-accords-shrewdly-designed-new-hybrid-system-tech-dept , the engine RPM has to vary with wheel speed while it's contributing to forward motion. So it can't be as efficient as HSD. But it's a simple system, can probably handle more power, and can split engine power between forward motion and generating electricity.
        2 wheeled menace
        • 9 Months Ago
        @David Murray
        Is this true? I can see a lot of hybrids coming out soon as a result..
      RoyEMunson
      • 9 Months Ago
      This man is a parasite, nothing more.
      skierpage
      • 9 Months Ago
      The term of a patent issued prior to 1995 is "20 years from the date you first applied for the patent... or seventeen years from the patent grant." So the Paice patent is about to run out (hooray), but they'll be litigating the last 20 years for years to come (boo).. Paice did figure out an ingenious solution, so it's not as bad as completely ridiculous software patents. The sad thing is Toyota actually figured out how to make hybrid e-CVT work but since Paice doesn't make anything that would infringe on Toyota's patents they can just collect money instead of coming to a deal. Surely Paice has gone after GM for Voltec and Honda for two-motor as well, and those car companies must have come to some arrangement with Toyota as Ford did. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hybrid_Synergy_Drive#Patent_issues has useful background.
      2 wheeled menace
      • 9 Months Ago
      This is why we can't have nice things.
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