In an effort to help spread the adoption and further the development of the hydrogen fuel cell technology the company developed for its FCV concept vehicle—now known as the Mirai—Toyota has announced that it's making approximately 5,680 fuel cell patents available for royalty-free use.
The long list of patents includes around 1,970 related to the actual in-vehicle fuel cells, 290 covering technologies behind the high-pressure hydrogen tanks the Mirai and other cars will use to safely transport the fuel, and 70 pertaining to the production of hydrogen itself. The patents will specifically be made available to other automakers, parts suppliers, and companies interesting in building fueling stations. And while the patents relating to fuel cell vehicles will only be royalty-free until 2020, the ones relating to hydrogen production will remain royalty-free indefinitely.
The announcement might sound like an altruistic move on Toyota's part to help the world move away from fossil fuels (it's certainly a nice gesture) but it will also help further the adoption of fuel cell vehicles, which will in turn make it easier for consumers to purchase and drive the company's own Mirai once it's officially available.
Like with electric cars, one of the roadblocks preventing the widespread adoption of fuel cell vehicles across the country is a lack of refuelling stations. And there's a lack of refuelling stations because there's just not enough fuel cell vehicles on the road to make them profitable. It's a vicious circle that Toyota is hoping to stop by making it easier, and cheaper, for other companies to develop fuel cell vehicles, filling stations, and produce the hydrogen fuel. These patents will serve as important stepping stones for the further development of the technology, and while the move will certainly benefit Toyota, in the long run it should be just as beneficial to consumers too. [Toyota]