In the process of developing its new Fusion Hybrid and other plug-in vehicles, Ford said it now owns 461 hybrid patents including those for the powertrain enabling the Fusion Hybrid to achieve 47 mpg and the Fusion Energi plug-in to hit a projected 100 MPGe.

Among its most talented inventors, Ford made mention of Ming Kuang, who has helped Ford since 2000 to expand its portfolio of hybrid patents from just 10 patents when he began to 461 today.

“The work on the Fusion Hybrid is all about a commitment I made a long time ago to have a positive effect on our environment,” said Kuang. “It’s about helping make the world my children live in – and the world my children’s children will live in – a better place.”

Ming Kuang has 40 patents to his name and Ford would not be producing its plug-in and other hybrids without his intellectual capital contribution.

Kuang was behind nearly 10 percent of the 461 hybrid patents, Ford said, and 25 of his 40 hybrid patents have gone from mere draft form to actual production of key components of Ford’s powersplit architecture system. This system is used on the Fusion Hybrid and Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid.

The company's prolific run of patents represents a 50-fold increase, Ford said, and signals a solid commitment to growing its intellectual property despite the economic downturn.

“Ford continued to invest to develop new products like our new Fusion hybrids during the depths of the economic downturn,” said Chuck Gray, Ford chief engineer of Global Core Engineering Hybrid and Electric Vehicles. “We succeeded in transforming our lineup with leading fuel efficiency, thanks in part to the many Ford inventors who are helping make our Fusion Hybrid America’s most fuel-efficient sedan.”

Ford went on to say in a press release that "as recent as 2000 Ford owned just 10 patents that it classified as hybrid technology."

With the evolution of the Escape Hybrid things began to slowly change, Ford said. This vehicle was the first hybrid made by a U.S.-based automaker, but by 2002 Ford conceded it had only around 30 hybrid patents.

Having graduated from the University of California-Davis in 1991, Kuang got busy in those early days of Ford's hybrid technology development.

“The level of cohesiveness wasn’t anywhere close to where it is today,” said Kuang. "For example, research and advanced engineering and product development didn’t work as closely as they do today, slowing the pace of innovation."

However, things began to ramp up in the mid-200s, Kuang said, while giving a plug to the the launch of the "One Ford" strategy intended to "accelerate development of new products customers want and value."

“We stopped trying to create and fix one-off, niche vehicles, and it made all the difference in the world,” he said.

Ford said better collaboration clued inventors to where opportunities exist.

In the last three years alone, the number of inventions submitted to Ford’s legal team to be considered for patents has increased more than 25 percent.

2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid.

But David Kelley, a Ford attorney who handles hybrid patents, said Ford doesn’t engage in the practice of getting patents for the mere sake of getting patents.

“We get the high-quality patents that Ford really needs,” said Kelley. “With the high level of innovation from people like Ming, it makes sense that we should see our hybrid patent levels increase the way they have.”

Eric Kuehn, Ford’s chief engineer, global electrified programs, said also spoke positively on Ford's level of innovation and being part of a team that has created the Fusion Hybrid and Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid.

“One of the best parts of being involved with Ford’s electrified vehicle group is that they are never satisfied,” said Kuehn. “They are always striving to go further and see how far they can push toward creating even larger gaps between Ford and its competitors. That is ingrained in the culture and mindset of the team here and isn’t going to change anytime soon.”