In one of the most selfless and effing great moves, CES 2015 witnessed car makers Toyota announce that it will freely share its 5,680 hydrogen fuel cell patents with any automaker (that includes their competitors), suppliers or refuelling equipment manufacturers that are ready to make strides in hydrogen-as-a-fuel tech within the next five years.
Many of the said patents were displayed in a prototype version of Toyota Mirai in the last CES, which went on sale in Japan in December and will go on sale in Europe and the US in late 2015. The patents are a mix bag of high pressure hydrogen tanks, fuel cell stacks, construction of hydrogen-refueling stations and fuel cell system software controls.
This announcement comes on the heels of Tesla’s (the Silicon Valley electric-vehicle maker) patent portfolio. Once partners on the development of electric vehicle technology, the two companies now have different ideas on clean energy vehicles- CEO Elon Musk led Tesla has focused on electric vehicles, while Toyota has placed heavy bets on fuel cells.
Toyota said that it would request, but not require, companies that license its patents to share their own fuel cell patents in return, in hopes of sparking more research into this field. Hydrogen production and supply patents will be made available royalty-free indefinitely and Toyota’s vehicle patents will stay free until 2020.
All is not rosy, though. Toyota may actually need help in garnering industrial support, more than Tesla does- these guys have already deployed superchargers globally, and viability is not a question at all. Toyota is facing one of the most obvious problems-the cars will need a network of refuelling stations- and, they don’t exist.
Bob Carter, Senior VP of automotive operations at Toyota rightly thinks that the first generation of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles would require “unconventional collaboration” among car makers, governments, power firms and researchers. By eliminating boundaries imposed by the corporate field, Toyota hopes to speed R&D up and, well, clear up Earth’s lungs, for a start.
“At Toyota, we believe that when good ideas are shared, great things can happen.” Hear, hear.