Business / Corporate

Toyota makes fuel cell patents free for other manufacturers to use

by Kazuaki Nagata

Staff Writer

In a bid to boost expansion of fuel cell technology, Toyota Motor Corp. is offering 5,680 of its hydrogen-power patent licenses to other manufacturers at no cost.

The automaker made the announcement Tuesday at the Consumer Electronics Show, the biggest electronics trade show in the United States, which is underway in Las Vegas.

Last month, Toyota released the world’s first commercial fuel cell vehicle, or FCV, a model it markets as the Mirai.

It’s the first time the world’s largest automaker has made its patents available royalty-free to others, and the move represents Toyota’s eagerness to kick-start development in the FCV sector.

“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,” Bob Carter, senior vice president of automotive operations at Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc., said in a statement.

“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 said.

Of the 5,680 patent licenses, Toyota said roughly 1,970 relate to fuel cell stacks and 3,350 are for fuel cell system software control, while 290 patents relate to high-pressure hydrogen tanks.

The firm said those interested in making and selling FCVs can use these patents for free until 2020. Toyota also has about 70 patents in relation to hydrogen stations, such as hydrogen production and supply, and these can be used for free indefinitely.

FCVs are equipped with fuel cell stacks. Electricity is generated when hydrogen is injected into the fuel cell stacks. The power in turn drives a motor.

The vehicle produces no carbon dioxide, so it is often seen as a new genre of environmentally friendly car. But using hydrogen as an energy source isn’t entirely carbon-free. Carbon dioxide is generated when producing hydrogen through the use of fossil fuels.

Many in the auto and energy industries believe in the potential of FCVs. But it is expected to take years or even decades for the new vehicles to obtain widespread recognition among consumers given the high costs of manufacturing cars and filling stations.

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