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Ford takes licence on Toyota hybrid system

Ford has taken out a licence to build Toyota's transaxle hybrid system into its petrol-electric hybrid vehicle plans, adding to Toyota hybrid drive licensees Nissan/Renault.

The transaxle, just part of the total Toyota system, distributes energy requirements between electric and petrol sources.

The new licensing deal is reportedly a stop-gap, inasmuch as Ford, like Nissan, plans to develop its own hybrid drive technology, but for the moment, it gives Toyota a commanding lead in a full-hybrid field in which Honda, which has not sold licences to third parties, is its only competitor. Ford's first hybrid will be a version of the Escape SUV due for launch next autumn, while Nissan's first hybrid will be a saloon for the Californian market in two years' time. Toyota itself is planning to expand hybrid sales beyond the existing second-generation Prius by equipping Lexus SUVs with the technology.

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