Detroit Auto Show

In a rare move, Toyota Motor Corp. announced last week that it will allow other firms to use its nearly 6,000 patents related to fuel cells. It said it wants to spread the technology globally while spurring competition for further development. Tesla made a similar patent announcement last year.

The success of FCVs largely depends on how a wide network of hydrogen fueling stations is created. While there are only a few in Japan, the government is in the midst of a hydrogen station blitz.

But problems abound, including the comparatively high cost of fuel-cell vehicles and the need for specialized hydrogen fuel stations. Also unresolved is how to generate, transport and store hydrogen in a sustainable way.

“We’ve determined that it is important to increase the number of supporters in order to realize a hydrogen society,” Toyota President Akio Toyoda told reporters according to the Japan Times