Toyota wants to spur hydrogen fuel cell adoption, just like Tesla wants automakers to develop electric vehicles. Tesla released its patents to the world and now Toyota is doing something similar with the release of 5,680 patents it used to develop the Toyota Mirai.
Of the nearly 6,000 patents, around 2,000 are related to fuel cells stacks, over 3,000 are for software and another 290 are associated with hydrogen tanks and storage.
Toyota has licensed patents in the past – specifically for its hybrid drivetrain – but this is the first time the automaker is offering them royalty-free and extending it to other industries.
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.
It's certainly a nice gesture from Toyota – much like Tesla's – but it's not entire altruistic. More people developing hydrogen vehicles means an infrastructure that grows and the companies on the ground floor (see: Toyota) stand to benefit the most. But the offer isn't open-ended: Toyota says it will keep the licenses free only until the end of 2020.