Toyota-Mirai-USA

Here’s something unexpected. To spur development and introduction of innovative fuel cell tech around the world, Toyota is making available thousands of its hydrogen fuel cell patents, royalty free.

Announced at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show, this initiative will see Toyota invite royalty-free use of approximately 5,680 fuel cell related patents held globally, including critical technologies developed for the production Toyota Mirai, revealed in November 2014.

The list includes approximately 1,970 patents related to fuel cell stacks, 290 associated with high-pressure hydrogen tanks, 3,350 related to fuel cell system software control and 70 patents related to hydrogen production and supply.

“At Toyota, we believe that when good ideas are shared, great things can happen. The first generation hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, launched between 2015 and 2020, will be critical, requiring a concerted effort and unconventional collaboration between automakers, government regulators, academia and energy providers,” said Bob Carter, senior VP of automotive operations at Toyota USA.

“By eliminating traditional corporate boundaries, we can speed the development of new technologies and move into the future of mobility more quickly, effectively and economically,” he added.

Toyota’s initiative builds on previous commitments, including financial support for the development of hydrogen fuelling infrastructure. In May 2014, it announced a $7.3 million (RM26,002,336) loan to FirstElement Fuels to support the operations and maintenance of 19 hydrogen fuelling stations in California. Toyota is also collaborating with Air Liquide to develop and supply a network of 12 hydrogen stations for New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

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The patents will be made available to automakers who will produce and sell fuel cell vehicles, as well as to fuel cell parts suppliers and energy companies who establish and operate fuelling stations. Companies working to develop and introduce fuel cell buses and industrial equipment, such as forklifts, are also covered. Requests from companies looking to adapt fuel cell tech outside of the transportation sector will be evaluated on a case by case basis.

Patents related to fuel cell vehicles will be available for royalty-free licenses until the end of 2020. Patents for hydrogen production and supply will remain open for an unlimited duration. As part of licensing agreements, Toyota will request (but not require) that other companies share their fuel cell-related patents with Toyota for similar royalty-free use. Not sure if major carmakers will take up the offer, but we’ll see.

The Mirai – ‘future’ in Japanese – is powered by hydrogen, which is of course abundant. Using no gasoline, it emits only water vapour and “refuels” in roughly five minutes. The five-seater has an active range of up to 483 km, Toyota claims. Not just a concept car, the Mirai goes on sale in the USA this year for $57,500 (RM204,772). More on the Mirai here.