Toyota Follows Tesla’s Lead, Open-Sources Many of Its Hydrogen Fuel Cell Patents

When electric automaker Tesla Motors announced last year that it was about to make its registered electric car patents open source, many mainstream automakers dismissed the action as nothing more than a publicity stunt.

To expand the hydrogen fuel cell market, Toyota is giving away its hydrogen fuel cell patents.

To expand the hydrogen fuel cell market, Toyota is giving away its hydrogen fuel cell patents.

Now Japanese firm Toyota — a company which was unusually quiet on the subject of Tesla’s patent sharing — has announced it will be following Tesla’s lead by making some 5,680 of its hydrogen fuel cell-related patents available for ‘royalty-free use’ around the world.

The news was announced yesterday at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where Toyota outlined its visions for sharing its hydrogen fuel cell technology with the rest of the automotive world.

“At Toyota, we believe that when good ideas are shared, great things can happen,” said Bob Carter, Senior Vice President of Automotive Operations at Toyota Sales USA Inc. “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 says more than 5,000 hydrogen fuel cell patents will be available 'royalty free' for competitors to use.

Toyota says 5,680 hydrogen fuel cell patents will be available ‘royalty free’ for competitors to use.

Toyota says that many of its patents stretch back twenty years or more, illustrating the many years it has been refining and developing hydrogen fuel cell technology. Despite this, there’s been barely any commercial application of hydrogen fuel cell technology demonstrated outside of the occasional concept car or test fleet.

Some rival car companies have yet to even embrace the technology, with some criticising the costs of developing and producing hydrogen fuel cell vehicles as aggressively as Toyota dismisses plug-in cars.

This lack of commercial development, Toyota says, is the reason it is opening up its patents to usually rivalled automakers who are aiming to produce and sell fuel cell vehicles, as well as fuel cell parts suppliers and infrastructure providers.

Like Tesla however, Toyota’s decision to share its previously patent-restricted technologies is self-serving. In both cases, the royalty-free sharing of patented technologies help each firm work towards their respective automotive visions of the future.

Toyota needs other firms and companies to support its hydrogen fuel cell goals in order to succeed.

Toyota needs other firms and companies to support its hydrogen fuel cell goals in order to succeed.

Tesla’s vision of the future is one in which everyone drives a battery electric vehicle recharged by renewably-generated electricity. Toyota’s vision is one in which everyone drives a hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle powered by renewably-generated hydrogen.

In sharing its battery, drivetrain, and charging technologies with companies who share its ethos and approach to plug in vehicles, Tesla ensures that its Supercharger standard becomes more widely adopted and that Tesla’s customers — who are provided with electricity for free at Supercharger stations for the duration of their Tesla ownership — are given an increasingly large number of places to refuel for free.

In sharing its hydrogen fuel cell patents, Toyota hopes to bring down the costs associated with hydrogen fuel cell production through economies of scale, reducing the cost of hydrogen fuel cell cars for all.

But more importantly, it eliminates some of the hurdles currently in place for those companies wishing to design, build and operate hydrogen refuelling stations. Without a comprehensive refuelling infrastructure, the automaker knows commercial viability is impossible.

Like Tesla however, the true measure of success for Toyota’s offer of free patents will be how many of its rival automakers opt to use its technology. Like Betamax and VHS, we suspect there’s a new green car technology war just about to start between hydrogen and plug-ins.


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  • Ad van der Meer

    The royalty free period ends 2020. By the time other manufacturers have used the patents in their own cars, this period is probably come and gone.

    • Matt Beard

      That’s a nice successful line of hydrogen models you are selling there – want to keep selling them? I thought so… let’s talk bucks!

  • Marleychil

    My congratulation to Toyota on the release of patents for their hydrogen hybrid vehicle. This will go far in moving the technology ahead. Hopefully, we will have some strong innovations that will lead to real break through. I wonder what will happen if someone makes a real break through, but has no interest in making hybrid hydrogen cars. If I am not mistaken Tesla stipulation was good faith. Toyota made a bad decision and is only interested in dragging other crabs into the pot that is beginning to boil. Any technology outside of making hydrogen cars, seems is not allowed under released patents. Time is also a factor, could expect royalty fees after 2020.nnThey have now step forward announcing the motivation is a perceived enemy Tesla, rather than motivated for the customer. By attempting to copy some of Tesla strategies they release slighted patents and announce charging, sorry filling, stations in the north east. I wonder if they will build stations going from east to west coast and Maine to the Florida, Keys. Toyota is continuing to burn their resources, time and industry leadership position on a bad decision cause by a lost of face. Please stop throwing good money after bad. Being from the island of Jamaica W.I., I would just say Irie, for every dog has his day. Toyota are your best days a thing of the pass? Don’t worry their is another company in Bavaria that doesn’t like the same guy. Sorry Elon. Look, Elon has his ways, but he is right. 🙂 nDON’T BECOME PRISONER OF A BAD DECISION. EV’s for EV revolution. HYBRID is the WRONG answer.nnQuestion: could someone ref EV RULES – Is the EV revolution taking prisoners?n————-“The Revolution will not be televised”, but it will be Electrified————–n——As I say you can pay for the Evolution or Jump straight to the Revolution—–n———-Hybrid lose because EV RULES —The EV Revolution has begun———–

  • One half expects a move like this from a company like Tesla, from a large auto manufacturer? Unheard of!nnGreat move Toyota. They are clearly all in on this technology. While I don’t share their vision, I wholeheartedly support the open sourcing of these patents in order to encourage the adoption of new technology.nnPatents were once useful in encouraging the development and investment in new technology but have more recently been used by large corporations to stifle innovation. Kudos to Toyota for having the guts to make a move like this and recognize that patents are an obstacle to progress!

  • Esl1999 .

    Blu-ray vs. HD DVD for the younger readers. The problems HFCs face is the continuing improvement in battery chemistry, grand scale battery production (lower battery cost) and improved charging speed. I wont go into current charging infrastructure. Toyota could focus their effort on clean freight transportation. This is the one area that FC could trump battery-powered transport.

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