Like Tesla, Toyota Open Sources Its Hydrogen Fuel Cell Patents – Video From CES

JAN 10 2015 BY MARK KANE 24

Toyota Mirai

Toyota Mirai

Toyota surprised us at the the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas by announcing that its 5,680 patents related to fuel cells are now open to the automotive industry.

This move reminds us of the earlier decision by Tesla Motors move. The patents belong to few groups:

“Toyota will invite royalty-free use of approximately 5,680 fuel cell related patents held globally, including critical technologies developed for the new Toyota Mirai.  The list includes 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.”

The target is automotive industry and suppliers (hydrogen station manufacturers too), while companies from other industries will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Toyota expects, but will not require, that other companies who use those patents will open their doors to Toyota.

We are curious why Toyota did this? One of possible answers could be that fuel cell cars are so far behind all-electric and plug-in hybrids that supporters of FCEVs need all hands on-board.

“Toyota has a long history of opening its intellectual properties through collaboration, and was instrumental in facilitating the widespread adoption of hybrid vehicles by licensing related patents.  Today’s announcement represents the first time that Toyota has made its patents available free of charge and reflects the company’s aggressive support for developing a hydrogen-based society.

This Toyota initiative builds on previous commitments, including substantial financial support for the development of a hydrogen fueling infrastructure in California and the northeastern United States. In May 2014, Toyota announced a $7.3 million loan to FirstElement Fuels to support the operations and maintenance of 19 hydrogen fueling stations across California. In November 2014, Toyota announced a collaboration with Air Liquide to develop and supply a phased network of 12 state-of-the-art hydrogen stations targeted for New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

The hydrogen fuel cell patents will be made available to automakers who will produce and sell fuel cell vehicles, as well as to fuel cell parts suppliers and energy companies who establish and operate fueling stations, through the initial market introduction period, anticipated to last until 2020. Companies working to develop and introduce fuel cell busses and industrial equipment, such as forklifts, are also covered. Requests from parts suppliers and companies looking to adapt fuel cell technology outside of the transportation sector will be evaluated on a case by case basis.

Today’s announcement covers only fuel cell-related patents wholly owned by Toyota.  Patents related to fuel cell vehicles will be available for royalty-free licenses until the end of 2020. Patents for hydrogen production and supply will remain open for an unlimited duration. As part of licensing agreements, Toyota will request, but will not require, that other companies share their fuel cell-related patents with Toyota for similar royalty-free use.

Companies interested in Toyota’s fuel cell-related patents will negotiate individual contracts with Toyota.  Additional details, including licensing terms and application process, are available upon request.”

Bob Carter, Senior Vice President of Automotive Operations at Toyota Motor Sales, USA Inc. stated:

“At Toyota, we believe that when good ideas are shared, great things can happen. 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 Mirai

Toyota Mirai

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24 Comments on "Like Tesla, Toyota Open Sources Its Hydrogen Fuel Cell Patents – Video From CES"

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You forgot to highlight the duration of the offer. It’s buried in one of the quotes.

“Patents related to fuel cell vehicles will be available for royalty-free licenses until the end of 2020. Patents for hydrogen production and supply will remain open for an unlimited duration.”

This is Totota bait and switch. Tesla does not have a time limit on their open patent offer…

“Quick! Everbody switch to hydrogen using our technology now, so later on, we can make lots of money!!!”

I don’t think Tesla ever promised to keep the patents free “forever” either. It was left ambiguous as to what the timeline was, presumably so Tesla has the flexibility to reneg later.

In the US, patents expire after 20 years. When 2020 rolls around there won’t be much leverage on many of these patents to force any kind of serious royalty.

So basically by the time affordable 200 mile EVs become the norm takers will be expected to pay for these patents for something even Toyota admits won’t see wide spread adoption for decades to come?

Doubt there will be many takers.

20 year time limmit tho..

If a hydrogen fuel cell patent becomes open in the forest and no one is there care…..

Why Dr. Michio Kaku? Why?!


No kidding. I lost a lot of respect for Michio Kaku. Over the last 5 years he seems to have gone so commercial on everything. I won’t call him a sell-out… yet.

Yeah, I had a “face palm” moment also.

I liked his Big Think segments, but this made me lose all respect for him. There’s too many “snake oil” claims that I would totally expect a Toyota salesmen or PR person to say, but not someone with some engineering/physics background.

Michio Kaku’s presentation borders on fraud. “You would want a fuel source based on an element that’s the most plentiful in the universe, and that is hydrogen”

If we could just walk around collecting it like raindrops, that might be true. But we dig methane out of the ground and strip carbon off to use the hydrogen. And carelessly toss the extra carbon into the atmosphere where it causes serious environmental problems like making the ocean so acidic that coral reefs are dying. Glaciers are melting at unprecedented rates, raising sea levels so that low-lying habitat is threatened.

What a shame Toyota feels it necessary to resort to such tactics.

Toyota seems to have plenty of hire liars at its disposal. From the grim determination some posters defend this vision for the future of motoring that doesn’t serve their own interest as a (green) car consumer but does that of the car and fossil fuel industry I get a sneaking suspicion they have even infiltrated the comment sections of green car blogs too.

There is actually a fuel source more plentiful in the universe than hydrogen. Electrons.

Neither is really a fuel source. Both are energy carriers. But you’re right that there are more electrons than hydrogen atoms (not sure if that’s an appropriate comparison since one is an atom and the other is a subatomic particle).

Michio Kaku> “In a hydrogen fuel cell car, the engine has no moving parts”

False. It requires pumps/compressors to get that hydrogen to the membrane and move coolant around. Look at that complexity! Compare that to the Tesla Model S skateboard. How difficult and expensive will it be to maintain and repair that Mirai?

Pretty insulting simplifications.

Tesla’s battery also needs a coolant pump.

Yes it does. But look at the total number of components and the complexity of the two platforms side by side.

No wonder Toyota filed 5,680 patents. Good grief that’s a lot of complex technology!

A battery coolant system like Tesla’s uses a sealed closed loop for the coolant.

A fuel cell however brings in oxygen from the ambient atmosphere and needs to first pass it through a filter. Then the air is pumped at high speed through thousands of micro-channels in the cell stack where it reacts with hydrogen at the catalyst surface. Then the resulting water and any impurities that made it through the filters continue at high speed through the next set of micro-channels that cool the stack eventually being expelled out of the stack and through a tailpipe.

This is a very complex open system that relies upon filter and pumps and micro-channels with enormous amounts of surface area that can collect impurities and clog.

Slight technical correction – the compressor is for compressing the AIR that is fed to the fuel cell stack. The on-board hydrogen is already at 10,000 psi and goes through pressure reducing valves before being fed to the FC stack.

Michio Kaku> “0-60 in 9 seconds… a game changer”

Embarrassing. Simply embarrassing. I wonder how much he was paid to make that speech.

The second I saw Dr Kaku shilling for Toyota, all of my respect for him and all of his credibility flew right out the window.

Lying like this and pretending you’r a physicist is embarassing, really is.
Shame on him.