LAS VEGAS — Hoping to spur the development of environmentally friendly hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, Toyota announced that it will share more than 5,600 patents it owns on the technology with its rivals. The announcement was made at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show.
"At Toyota, we believe that when good ideas are shared, great things can happen," said Bob Carter, Toyota Motors Sales USA senior vice president of automotive operations, in a statement. "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."
Mirai means "future" in Japan. It can travel up to 300 miles on a single tank of hydrogen, refuel in less than five minutes and emits only water vapor.
Toyota's patent sharing includes "critical technologies developed for the new Toyota Mirai," the automaker said.
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 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.
Car shoppers have less than a handful of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles to choose from at this point. They are not available in every state, either.
Honda in November previewed the production version of its latest fuel-cell vehicle with the rollout of the Honda FCV Concept. The production version is expected to launch in Japan by March of 2016, followed by the U.S. and Europe, the automaker said at the time. It is the successor to the Honda FCX Clarity and, like the Mirai, is expected to have a 300-mile or more driving range.
Hyundai offers Southern California shoppers the 2015 Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell vehicle. It is available for lease at three dealerships. They are Win Hyundai in Carson, Tustin Hyundai, and Hardin Hyundai in Anaheim.
The U.S. Energy Department says fuel-cell electric vehicles powered by hydrogen "have the potential to revolutionize our transportation system."
It adds: "They are more efficient than conventional internal-combustion engine vehicles and produce no harmful tailpipe exhaust — their only emission is water. Fuel-cell vehicles and the hydrogen infrastructure to fuel them are in an early stage of deployment."
Toyota's patent sharing is similar to a step taken last year by electric carmaker Tesla Motors. The California company opened its book of patents to kickstart adoption of battery electric vehicles like the Tesla Model S.
Edmunds says: This "good guy" move by Toyota means a hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle may be on your shopping list before too long.