Toyota Opens up Hydrogen Fuel Cell Patents

Long gone are the days of super secret vehicle development activity. Smartphones catch test drivers on the road months before vehicles are debuted at auto shows. Bloggers flock to the Nuremberg Ring for a chance to catch a testing day.

Six months ago Elon Musk opened up Tesla’s patents for open-sourcing saying, “Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.” Much in the same way that crowd sourcing has led to improvements in everything from technology to restaurant service, Musk is hoping that his move will infuse the market with new ideas and create competition resulting in better products.

Now, on the heels of Musk’s move Toyota announced this week that they will not seek royalties when companies use any of their 5,680 patents globally related to fuel-cell stacks, high-pressure hydrogen tanks, fuel system software and hydrogen production and supply. The goal? To make hydrogen fuel cells mainstream.

“We think fuel cells have the potential to become mainstream technology over the next 100 years,” says Bob Carter, a Toyota senior vice president in the U.S. “By having more (automakers) and suppliers in on the development of fuel cells, we think this will help accelerate the adoption through the market.”

Hyundai, Honda, and Toyota are all in the midst of introducing hydrogen powered vehicles to the market with the two main obstacles being consumer education and fuel distribution. Toyota’s flashy announcement may go a long way in creating interest among the consumer base, the first step to overcoming those hurdles.

image courtesy of Toyota
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