Toyota to open source fuel cell patents
Following Tesla’s lead, carmaker hopes to spark development of hydrogen-powered Mirai sedan.
LAS VEGAS – At the International CES show in Las Vegas this week, Toyota revealed that it will allow others to use several thousand of its patented or patent-pending technologies for free to speed the development of its hydrogen-powered car dubbed the Mirai, due to be sold in the U.S. by October.
According to Toyota, the company will invite royalty-free use of approximately 5,680 fuel cell related patents held globally, including critical technologies developed for the new Toyota Mirai.
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.
Toyota executive Bob Carter compared Mirai’s development to the gamble the company took on the electric Prius, which now has become a ubiquitous sight on most roads.
“We can speed the metabolism of everyone’s research and development,” he said.
Don’t expect a rush of carmakers to line up, though. Quite a few have their own hydrogen fuel-cell cars in the works. But like the Prius, there’s the quandary of the car and the fuel station. Which comes first?
“We cannot have the car without the refuelling stations,” he said.
Carter says California is on its way to building 100 stations with some $200 million the state set aside. The carmaker offered one of the main station developers a $7.2 million loan for maintenance and operations and has partnered with another company to develop stations in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut.
As to the patents, the royalty-free aspect isn’t all encompassing or unlimited in duration. According to the company, patents related to fuel cell vehicles will be royalty-free only to automakers who will produce and sell fuel cell vehicles; companies developing fuel cell buses and industrial equipment; and fuel cell parts suppliers. In addition, the license only lasts until the end of 2020.
However, patents for hydrogen production and supply will remain open for an unlimited duration, the company says.
As part of licensing agreements, Toyota will request, but not require other companies to share their fuel cell-related patents with Toyota for similar royalty-free use.
© 2015 The Canadian Press