Over the last couple of decades, a lot of research and development money has been poured into hydrogen fuel cell technology, one form of clean transportation technology that Toyota has hedged its bets on, as opposed to battery electric vehicles.
In fact, Toyota has gone so far as to say that hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are going to change the world, and has done little in the way of developing battery electric vehicles. The sole electric vehicle, the short-lived Toyota RAV4 EV’s battery electric powertrain, for example, was developed by Tesla Motors. On the other hand, seeing that Toyota practically pioneered successful hybrid electric vehicles, battery electric vehicles are actually not the next “logical step” in Toyota’s evolution.
Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, such as the Toyota Mirai, actually have more in common with hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles. Even Toyota’s home country has been pushing to improve hydrogen fuel cell infrastructure, which will help these vehicles become even more viable. Infrastructure aside, what about more hydrogen fuel cell vehicles?
Six months ago, in an effort to get more automakers and infrastructure providers on board with battery electric vehicles, Elon Musk said of Tesla Motors’ patents, “All our patent are belong to you,” and at least one company has taken Mr. Musk up on his good-faith offer to make battery electric vehicle technology available to even more people. Toyota announced yesterday, at CES 2015 (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas, Nevada, pretty much the same thing. All told, Toyota is making available, royalty-free, “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 only presents one caveat. Those interested in using the patents for building infrastructure can use them indefinitely. On the other hand, those interested in building hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will only have free access to the patent vault until 2020. Better get cracking, folks!