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Ford to give other automakers access to its EV technologies

A Ford Focus electric concept car with a home charging unit on display at the 2013 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, January 15, 2013.
Stan Honda | AFP | Getty Images
A Ford Focus electric concept car with a home charging unit on display at the 2013 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, January 15, 2013.

Ford Motor said it would give other automakers access to its electrified vehicle technologies for a fee to accelerate research and development of such vehicles.

Ford's offer comes nearly a year after a move by Tesla Motors, the California electric car maker, to share its patents with other companies, though at no charge.

Despite billions of dollars of investment by automakers and suppliers, and thousands of dollars per car of federal and state tax incentives, consumer demand for electrified vehicles has fallen far short of government and industry projections.

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Indeed, the sale of electric vehicles, including gas-electric hybrids and pure battery EVs, made up a fraction of total U.S. vehicle sales this year and last.

One of the biggest obstacles to wider acceptance of electric cars is the driving range between charges.

Automakers and suppliers are addressing this "range anxiety" in several ways, including installation of more battery charging stations and development of new batteries that will enable EVs to travel up to 200 miles or more between charges.

At least four major automakers, Ford, General Motors, Nissan Motor, and Volkswagen, plan to join Tesla in offering such extended-range EVs in the next two to three years.

Ford is developing a new family of electrified compact cars for 2018-2019 that could include plug-in hybrid and pure battery versions, suppliers told Reuters in March.

Ford said on Thursday that providing access to its patents "will promote faster development of future inventions."

The company said it has more than 650 EV patents and about 1,000 pending patent applications on EV technologies.

It has six hybrid or fully electrified vehicles in the market: The Ford Focus electric, the Ford Fusion hybrid, the Ford Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid, the Ford C-MAX hybrid, the Ford C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid and the Lincoln MKZ hybrid.

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Ford filed for more than 400 patents for EV technologies in 2014. This represents over 20 percent of the total patents the automaker applied for last year.

Companies can access Ford's patents and published patent applications through its technology commercialization and licensing office or through AutoHarvest, an online platform for automakers to collaborate.

Ford also said it would hire 200 EV engineers this year.