Las Vegas—“At Toyota, we believe that when good ideas are shared, great things can happen.” That was Bob Carter, senior vice president of automotive operations at Toyota Motor Sales, announcing at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) that the company would make 5,680 of its fuel-cell patents freely available to its competitors.
The move is about collaboration. Said Carter, “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.”
Other automakers working to commercialize fuel cells (a growing list that includes Honda, Daimler, Hyundai, BMW and General Motors) will be offered the patents royalty-free, and parts suppliers, forklift makers and energy companies will also have access to them.
The patents include 3,350 that concern software, 1,970 related to fuel-cell stacks, 290 that concern high-pressure (10,000 psi) hydrogen tanks, and 70 that govern hydrogen production and supply. They’ll be freely available through 2020, which Toyota considers to be the end of the fuel-cell introduction period.
Also at CES, Toyota presented the popular science educator Dr. Michio Kaku, who (standing in front of a fuel-cell Mirai) said, “The perfect car—you could be staring at it.” He praised the car for having 300 miles of range, for running on the most abundant element in the universe (hydrogen), and for having “exhaust so pure, so refined you can almost drink it.” Actually, you can drink it—the Apollo astronauts certainly did.
Kaku believes that the fuel-cell car “is a game changer that is going to transform the landscape. And we are present at the creation.” Here are Dr. Kaku’s remarks at CES: