29 Apr 19

Toyota to sell fuel cell tech in China

A mere few weeks after Toyota announced the release of almost 24,000 patents into public domain, it has now been announced that the Japanese OEM will be supplying its fuel cell technology to Beijing Automotive Group (BAIC)

A matter of volume

It’s not the first time for Toyota to release proprietary patents; since 2015, already 5,700 fuel cell related patents have been available. It’s an important strategic shift for the car maker, which might not be motivated by ecological objectives only.

Akin to other hydrogen fuel manufacturers, Toyota has not been able to ramp up interest in FC and the sales of its Mirai have been anecdotal at its best. Similarly, Toyota’s offering in China, focused on hybrid rather than pure EV, has done well, but could have done much better. In the latest release, Toyota is adding around 2,600 patents for electric motors, 2,000 for control units, 7,600 for system controls, 1,300 axle motor patents, as well as 2,200 patents for chargers and a further 2,400 fuel cell patents.

Sell tech, not cars

China, now the global number one in production and sales of EVs, has recently announced a hydrogen technology ramp-up (read article), which is an opportunity for Toyota to expand its business on Chinese territory. China is especially looking for way to reduce the (high) cost of the fuel cells, similarly to what local OEMs have managed to achieve for EVs.

Question is now if Toyota will strategize differently in China: tech supplier or OEM?

Authored by: Yves Helven