Paice files lawsuit against Hyundai and Kia over hybrid-engine technology

Article by Christian A., on February 23, 2012

A patent infringement lawsuit was filed against Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Motors Corp. by a company that had been involved in a drawn-out legal fight with Toyota Motor Corp. over hybrid-engine technology. The suit was filed in federal court in Baltimore last Thursday, complaining of the infringement of three patents by Hyundai's Sonata Hybrid and the Kia Optima Hybrid.

The plaintiffs are closely held Paice LLC and Baltimore's Abell Foundation, a non-profit company that has an investment in Paice.

According to the lawsuit, Hyundai and Kia knew about the patent litigation with Toyota, which lasted eight years and had ended with a 2010 settlement. The affiliated companies, Hyundai and Kia, use the same powertrain technology. Paice said that as early as 2004, Paice had called Hyundai many times and had asked for the opportunity to talk about its patented hybrid technology.

Paice is going after cash compensation as well as an order to ban the continued use of the technology without acquiring permission. The founder of Paice is Alex Severinsky, a Soviet emigrant who started his career with work on antitank-warfare instrumentation.

He developed a high-voltage method in the 1990s to power gas- electric vehicles that he claims to be the basis for modern hybrid technology. Ford Motor Co., which produces the Fusion hybrid car, has entered a deal to license Paice's technology for the resolution of the lawsuits.

More and more carmakers are seeking to apply new powertrain technologies like gasoline direct-injection (GDI), twin-scroll turbochargers and full-hybrid powertrains, knowing that these could improve the fuel efficiency of their vehicles. While they are still looking for the right timing to implement these three new technologies, Hyundai is already offering them on the new 2011 Hyundai Sonata. Hyundai will first launch the GDI-equipped 2011 Sonata, which will be followed in late 2010 by the new turbocharged Sonata 2.0T and Hyundai Sonata Hybrid.

The South Korean carmaker unveiled the new-look 2011 Sonata Hybrid at the 2010 New York auto show in April, showcasing new approaches to hybrid powertrain design and battery technology. At the launch, the 2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid will be the carmaker’s first hybrid offering in the United States. John Krafcik, president and chief executive of Hyundai Motor America, called the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid as the new kid on the block for its new take on traditional hybrid design – featuring a full parallel hybrid configuration and lithium polymer batteries – as well as a new appealing design.

2011 Sonata Hybrid is underpinned by the Hyundai-developed Hybrid Blue Drive platform, a full parallel hybrid drive system that employs an electric motor and a gasoline-powered internal combustion engine. Hyundai’s Hybrid Blue Drive platform is different from the power split systems employed by other carmakers, as it offers substantial efficiencies at higher speeds.

The carmaker’s Hybrid Blue Drive employs lithium polymer battery technology – the first and only system to do so – that is considered much better than their nickel-metal hydride and lithium-ion counterparts. While lithium polymer batteries offer the advantages of their lithium ion counterparts – which are employed in mobile phones and laptops – they are much better in terms of power density, durability and packaging. In addition, Hyundai’s Hybrid Blue Drive employs a modified compact six-speed transmission that features a hybrid starter-generator, an electric motor and low-friction oil pump.

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