Physicist and futurist Dr. Michio Kaku opened the Toyota press conference at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) proclaiming the dawn of a new age of hydrogen.
“We’re leaving the age of hydrocarbons and entering the age of hydrogen to create a hydrogen non-polluting society,” Kaku said.
While stating his belief that hydrogen-electric will be the primary fuel for the next 100 years, Bob Carter, Senior Vice President of Automotive Operations at Toyota Motor Sales, USA Inc., later acknowledged that a switch away from gasoline will not happen overnight and that “real change requires collaboration.”
Carter said more efforts need to be made to kickstart the development of the hydrogen fueling infrastructure, requiring a huge collaborative effort between government agencies, automakers, academia, and natural gas providers.
“We cannot have the car without the refueling stations,” Carter said. “We know the day-in, day-out ownership experience will make or break this vision we have of the hydrogen society.”
To help foster collaboration, Toyota announced at CES that it will grant royalty-free use of all 5680 of its solely owned fuel-cell patents, including those pending from development of the first hydrogen fuel-cell production vehicle, the Toyota Mirai.
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 that establish and operate fueling stations, through the initial market introduction period, anticipated to last through 2020. Companies working to develop and introduce fuel-cell buses and industrial equipment, such as forklifts, are also covered.
“For all we’ve accomplished over more than two decades of R&D, we realize we’re only at the starting gate with consumers,” Carter said. “By eliminating the traditional corporate boundaries, we can speed the metabolism of everyone’s research and development and move into a future of mobility quicker, more effectively, and more economically.”
This initiative will include the patents that are critical to develop and produce fuel-cell vehicles. Of those patents, approximately 1970 are licensed related to the fuel-cell stack itself. About 290 are for the high-pressure hydrogen tanks, and about 3350 to the fuel-cell system control technology. Because it focuses on the rapid expansion of hydrogen fueling stations, Toyota will also provide for the first time ever royalty-free use of approximately 70 hydrogen station-related patents indefinitely to those that are installing or operating hydrogen refueling stations.
In another step toward collaboration, the automaker announced at CES that its Steve and Steve Jr. pedestrian mannequins, developed in collaboration between the Toyota Collaborative Safety Research Center and Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis are being made available to all automakers to use in their pre-collision R&D work to help protect people in crashes or prevent collisions from happening. Steve is the world’s-first articulated mannequin that shares the same radar cross-section as a human, enabling regulators and consumers to measure and compare performance across multiple makes and models.
“The mannequins simulate the different sizes, shapes, and movement of humans to test electronic pre-collision systems,” Clark said. “Steve was recently acknowledged by SAE International as the new baseline for standardized protocol.”