Today was a pretty big day in the electric vehicle world, as Tesla CEO Elon Musk wrote in a company blog post that the California based company would not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wanted to use their technology.
While the term “good faith” is a subjective one, Musk’s announcement opens up Telsa’s arsenal of patents to any other OEM, with the hope that the adoption rate of electric vehicles at these manufacturers will be improved.
Making Telsa’s patents “open source” effectively creates a minimum standard of technology in electric vehicles, and the move now means that OEMs should only use their own EV technology if it performs better than Tesla’s.
That’s a pretty big win for consumers, since Tesla’s technology is generally highly regarded. It also means that the jumping-in point for OEMs into electric vehicles is substantially lower.
If a small manufacturer, or small product team in a large OEM, wants to start an EV project now, they can use Telsa’s patented technology to jump-start their development, and bring something to market quicker.
Telsa’s motivations are likely pretty simple: increase the adoption of electric vehicles in the marketplace. Many of Tesla’s problems as a company actually stem not from things Tesla does, but because of what Tesla has to overcome within the market landscape.
A slow development in battery technology, poor recharging infrastructure, and unfavorable laws and government incentives are the hurdles that Tesla spends the majority of its resources surmounting — not fending off other electric vehicle manufacturers.
Musk’s blog post changes that though, and by making it easier to make a quality electric automobile, Musk and Tesla as a whole are hoping that there will be strength in numbers.
What is good for the four-wheeled world also has benefits in the two-wheeled world. Giving access to battery management systems, motor and controller designs, as well as insights into safety systems helps electric motorcycle manufacturers gain a leg-up in their efforts.
In his blog post, Musk points to the relatively small efforts inside automotive OEMs in their pursuit to build electric cars, and the same can be said for motorcycle manufacturers — if not more so.
To see this we only have to look as far as the examples in the marketplace. KTM’s Freeride E motorcycle was effectively DOA when it debuted at EICMA in 2011, and we haven’t heard much about the machine since.
This is because the Austrian manufacturer, and the Austrian Institute of Technology (back then called Arsenal Research), basically used consumer-level off-the-shelf components to build KTM’s electric dirt bike, only to discover later that the machine was uncompetitive when compared to the technology being developed by other OEMs.
EV companies with relatively unrefined systems benefit from this announcement as well. No better example can be than Lightning Motorcycles, especially as the California company is readying the release of its LS-218 electric superbike.
A potent product that we have witnessed first-hand, Lightning can claim very little of the LS-218’s performance, instead relying on the company’s ability to source parts from the top vendors in the industry (something KTM was apparently incapable of even doing).
The result to-date has been a very unpolished and unreliable machine, but tapping into the knowledge found at Tesla could give the Lightning team a quick ramp-up in its systems development — further enhancing the LS-218 before it truly comes to market.
For the big OEMs, the cost to entry surely now has to be the selling point. Honda and Yamaha have quietly been working on electric motorcycle projects for quite longer than many realize, but the budgets for these teams have always been pennies on the dollar compared to the Japanese manufacturers’ other initiatives.
Being able to use Tesla’s R&D without penalty now, companies like Honda and Yamaha can develop more quickly in the areas were they are having developmental troubles, while companies like Kawasaki and Suzuki can actually start meaningful electric motorcycle projects with above-market-level technology at their disposal.
It’s not clear what today’s news really means for Tesla and its shareholders. To my eyes, the company seems to have just made a strong pivot from EV manufacturer, to EV platform and technology house — not a bad position to be in, I might add.
For the EV market and consumers though, the implications are pretty clear. Electric vehicles, including electric motorcycles just became a whole lot easier to design and build.
Source: Tesla (Blog)