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Toyota opens the door to hydrogen future

By Kyle Linsay
Tuesday, January 6, 2015 - 13:00

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Making patents available should ensure quicker uptake of the tech

5,680 fuel cell related patents made available royalty free

Toyota have thrown the doors wide open for other companies to get involved in hydrogen fuel by making thousands of hydrogen fuel cell patents available royalty free.

It is hoped that this initiative, announced at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show, will further spur development and introduction of fuel cell technology around the globe.

Toyota have made available 5,680 fuel cell related patents, including those used for the development of the upcoming Toyota Mirai. The full breakdown includes 1,970 patents related to fuel cell stacks, 290 associated with the high-pressure hydrogen tanks, 3,350 related to fuel cell system software control and 70 related to the production and supply of hydrogen.

Commenting at the announcement, Bob Carter, Senior Vice President of Automotive Operations for Toyota Motor Sales, said: “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. 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.”

Toyota have a long history of opening its intellectual properties through collaboration, and they were instrumental in facilitating the widespread adoption of hybrid vehicles by licensing related patents. Today’s announcement represents the first time that Toyota has made its patents available free of charge and reflects the company’s comprehensive support for developing a hydrogen-based society.

This Toyota initiative builds on previous commitments, including substantial financial support for the development of a hydrogen fuelling infrastructure in California and the north eastern United States. In May 2014, Toyota announced a $7.3 million loan to FirstElement Fuels to support the operations and maintenance of 19 hydrogen fuelling stations across California. In November 2014, Toyota announced a collaboration with Air Liquide to develop and supply a phased network of 12 state-of-the-art hydrogen stations targeted for New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

The hydrogen fuel cell patents will be made available over the next five years 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.

Today’s announcement covers only fuel cell-related patents wholly owned by Toyota. 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 will not require, that other companies share their fuel cell-related patents with Toyota for similar royalty-free use.

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