It's certainly no secret that Toyota has led the way for many years in the hybrid vehicles segment. The company leads in sales with the Prius and numerous other models taking top spots on the sales charts. Toyota also leads the way in hybrid technology development. It should really come as no surprise that the company holds the top spot in patents for electric propulsion vehicles.
Toyota currently holds the top spot in patents filed in at least 4 countries including the U.S. What is a little surprising is that the top four spots for patents filed in the U.S. are all held by foreign automakers hailing from Japan. In fact, Japanese automakers hold the top spots in patents filed in most countries. According to a report from the Japan Patent Office, a full 76% of all patents filed for electric propulsion vehicles are filed by Japanese automakers.
The charts shown above reflect patents filed within the listed country from 1995 to 2006. According to the survey used to make the charts, electric propulsion is defined as, "Electric propulsion vehicles include EVs, hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) and fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) by the definition of the office. They do not include railway electric cars, which do not have wheels."
With Ford as the only U.S. automaker making the cut, the domestic company may be seen as a step behind. But it should be noted that Japanese automakers constantly file patents for all innovations, while many American automakers do not undergo the time consuming and costly patent process.