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Toyota fleshes out its vision of our 'hydrogen society' at CES (pictures)

It's more than just a car, it's a way of life.

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Lori Grunin
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1 of 16 Sarah Tew/CNET

Michio Kaku takes the stage

Toyota brought out the big intellectual guns to impress us with its plans for the future. Physicist Michio Kaku expounded at length about how we're "entering the age of hydrogen," and emphasized the value of collaboration, as epitomized by Henry Ford and Thomas Edison at the birth of the automotive era.

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Hydrogen fuel cells will change everything

Stressing recent oil disasters, Kaku emphasized that hydrogen is volatile but dissipates quickly, and that we've been working with it long enough that we've smoothed out the kinks.
"We are present at the creation of a hydrogen society."

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The Mirai

According to Bob Carter of Toyota, the first model is named Mirai, Japanese for "future". In the US, the future means October 2015.

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Stressing collaboration

Like Kaku, Carter made a big point about the bet between Ford and Edison about whether gas or electric would power the automotive age.

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The front: the outside

The front grill of the Mirai.

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The front: the inside

A rendering of the inside of the car's front.

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The problems with predictions

Carter talks about the difficulty of predicting the future. Because there's a Yogi quote for everything.

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The fuel cell

Those yellow cylinders are the hydrogen and oxygen tanks. When charged, they combine to  form water vapor, and the reaction releases energy.  This "on-demand" energy drives the front wheels.

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Voltage boost converter

The voltage boost converter system allows the car to start in temperatures as low as -30 degrees Celsius.

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Not just for cars

Simulating a blackout, Carter "plugged" the car into the faux house to emphasize that the hydrogen fuel cell can power everything, not just cars. He claimed the fuel cell in the car could power a typical house for a week in an emergency.

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Need critical mass for fueling

Toyota has invested in FirstElement Fuel to provide hydrogen-fueling stations. Carter said that a car could be refueled in 3-5 minutes.

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Production partner

In the northeast, Toyota is partnering with Air Liquide.

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The future will be here by 2020

Carter claims that hydrogen fuel cell-based cars will be in production by the 10s of thousands by 2020.

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Patent strategy

Knowing that it needs the participation of a lot of other hydrogen fuel-cell related manufacturers, Toyota is allowing royalty-free use of all of its relevant and tech-critical patents. For a while.

Read more about Toyota kickstarting fuel-cell future with patent release.

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On the inside

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Patent breakdown

Here are some of the various categories Toyota holds patents in.

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