Toyota is to grant royalty-free use of some 5,680 global patents related to the companies making and selling hydrogen-fuel vehicles from now until the end of 2020. The company will also provide indefinite royalty-free use of approximately 70 patents for hydrogen fuel stations.
That probably doesn’t mean you can start building hydrogen-powered cars in your shed (although we invite you to try) but it does mean that other manufacturers – even some deadly rivals of Toyota – are invited to the gassy-car party.
Why give up all this proprietary tech? Change, the company says. “Hydrogen electric will be the primary fuel for the next 100 years… it’s simply a better battery,” said senior VP Bob Carter at the company’s press conference. He added that hydrogen-cell cars just can’t work unless there’s infrastructure to support them – so the more of them there are on the road, the better. And it’s all starting in California, with the roll-out of hydrogen fuel stations already beginning.
Toyota’s first hydrogen-powered car is the Mirai – due for release in the US this October. It’s a mid-size, four-door sedan with electric motors driving the front wheels, the power coming from the hydrogen cells. The company claims it can start in temperatures as low as -31C, and that if you plug it in to your house it’ll power all your tech for up to a week in an emergency… so we’re thinking of buying two and tell our electricity company to naff off.
The Mirai has a 480km range, does 0-100 in nine seconds, and can recharge in 3-5 minutes – rather than the hours-long thumb-twiddle of many conventional electric cars.
In June 2014 Tesla made all its patents available too – giving many of the same reasons as Toyota for the move.