Tesla Drops a Bombshell – Opens Up EV Patents to All

06/12/2014 @ 2:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

Tesla Drops a Bombshell   Opens Up EV Patents to All tesla logo 635x423

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)

Comment:

  1. Bob says:

    Elon Musk = Tony Stark

  2. RL says:

    Releasing patents…like a boss!

  3. paulus says:

    A brave move… well done Tesla

  4. Gutterslob says:

    Simply put, the current patent system and the culture surrounding it serves to stifle innovation rather than promote it. This is basically Elon Musk’s way of showing the middle finger at a broken system. Good on him. Let’s hope companies that borrow whatever he’s offering return the good faith by not retreating back into the patent rabbit-hole after they’ve introduced their own innovations.

  5. jzj says:

    Nothing short of revolutionary. ‘I have the best technology. Here. (Oh and by the way, I’ll still beat you with the best product, enable a broad EV future, and the public will benefit).’ Given the typical corporate culture both in the U.S. and in the world to ruthlessly protect intellectual property, this is historic.

    Now, that being said:
    1. Tesla’s Supercharger charging stations, which can pump out 135KW, is the definitive fast charging system and leaves the other systems far in its wake. This system will be needed to enable EV charging like a gas fill-up. At that power, Leaf could go from empty to full in 10 minutes, freeing urban dwellers from needing a place a park to charge every night and allowing freeway distance driving. While presently no Leaf-sized battery pack can accept that much juice — and aside from Tesla, all packs are Leaf-sized — the battery technology break-throughs of the near future will first be in charge – discharge speed, and then in energy density. When these faster batteries hit the market, you will be able to have a low-priced (i.e., non-Tesla-sized battery pack) EV that can be treated just like a gas car, and that will greatly benefit the sale of EVs.
    2. With the increase in EV sales, there will be a great need for batteries. Who’s going to be the best at making them? Tesla.
    3. The future is going to be electric cars that drive themselves, charge themselves, communicate with charging stations, communicate with each other regarding their charging needs, charging stations that communicate with the grid, and grid communication with the cars, and the only way for this to work is for a single open standard. Musk has now provided one (or at least much of the needed standard: even Tesla can’t quite do all of this yet, although they’re close). Suddenly the future bottleneck in the use of EVs — which would ultimately have been communication between the cars and the grid — is removed. The infrastructure future for EV sales has been cleared.

    Fanfreakintastic.

  6. Slangbuster says:

    Sounds like someone put the F in forward thinking. So refreshing. BRAVO!

  7. Truth says:

    They should shame themselfs for using the name tesla.
    The true tesla and his patents look it up. Learn and use.
    Then play boss!

    Modernday electricity use and technology is all rothschild & bilderberg controled.

    Tadaaaaaaa!

  8. smiler says:

    Though it seems like a generous gesture, it seems more like desperation in the face of the failure of full battery cars to catch on in the face of hyper efficient diesel or petrol engines and engine based hybrids.

    Lithium based battery tech is a dead end. Fisker has already closed up shop. Nissan and Honda are producing hybrids as are VW, BMW and others.

    The battery pack in the Tesla weights between 1,000 and 1500 lbs. It contains rare chemicals and the expected rage is closer to 150 – 70 than the 200- 230 quoted.

    The energy to power it is made by fossil fuel. Power stations are about 50% efficient and only 10% of the energy is transferred from the fuel to steam. Another 20% is lost on the way to the battery.

    The vanity purchase of the Toyots Prius, a car that does nothing for the environment but helps people look environmentally good. The pollution chain for the envonmentally precious consumer the Prius completely negates any benefit and the Tesla is not much better.

    Making a full size battery car is like building a sports car with wooden wheels.

    Yet people will fall over themselves to look good, with little idea as to whether there are any actual benefits.
    Having a decent diesel and a bicycle is significantly better an option until hybrids become more common place.

    Patents are very valid. Without them many companies cannot justify the investment required for innovation. Typically projects in comlanies must payu for themselves within 2 years, at a stretch 5.

    Patents are not the same as open source. Open source is a set of tools free for developers to use, like borrowoing a friend’s workshop. A Patent is a finished idea or product. Very different. if a company takes the significant time and effort to make something new then why should companies steal it and have the benefit for nothing. Like Samsung for example.

    Tesla need to give this away to survive in a market likely to disappear.

  9. Bob says:

    Smiler = Luddite

  10. Ken C. says:

    @smiler -

    Your stats are overly exaggerated.

    Do we even need to get into the numbers for ICE vehicles?

    EVs aren’t perfect, sure, but they’re getting better, and cleaner, everyday. I don’t see the source of ICE energy getting any cleaner, or sustainable, over time, do you? There are many different sources of electricity (wind, solar, water, etc.). Keep burning dinosaurs and we’ll see how long that lasts.

  11. Campisi says:

    This essentially means two things.

    1. The Tesla Supercharger Network is now an open charging standard with established locations and truly rapid charging. Why would you go with CHAdeMO or the SAE Combo charger when you can go with this?

    2. Tesla’s tech works best with Tesla’s batteries. Want some? Why, sure! The Gigafactory should be up to speed in about half a product cycle’s time…

  12. protomech says:

    jzj – I suspect in the short term Tesla will primarily build out their supercharging network for their needs, i.e. 100+ mile ranges between stops and mostly chargers sited near big cities but not in big cities. A LEAF size battery doesn’t offer enough range to “hop” from one station to the next, in something resembling a conventional vehicle. 40+ kWh for a car and perhaps 20+ kWh for a bike is effectively the minimum required to travel on the SC network.

    Elon has recently referred to increasing the single-car charge rate beyond 135 kW. I don’t know how realistic or practical this is – probably the Model S 85 kWh will not benefit, so it may wait until either a chemistry with higher charge tolerance is available or until a higher capacity EV is released.

    Lithium titanate cells are available that have higher charge acceptance rates .. though looking at power density I’m not sure they’re much higher than the Model S cells. (70 Wh/kg * 6C = 420 W/kg, 240 Wh/kg * 1.5C = 360 W/kg)

  13. Westward says:

    @Bob – Spot on…

    @smiler – You know nothing Jon Snow…

    I see this revelation as being a true embodiment of Nikolo Tesla’s personality. Elon Musk must really be a fan to take such an action. That, or he has the worlds best Quija board, and communicates with Tesla himself.

    I agree with others that mentioned the fast charging stations. I think the Tesla chargers may very well become the USB for EV’s.

    What I want to know, is what does this all mean for the relationship of Tesla Motors and Toyota. Toyota made a nominal investment in Tesla, and even produced an EV RAV4 with some sort of collaboration with Tesla.

    I would have thought an official partnership between the two would have furthered the electric car era ten fold.

  14. Westward says:

    @ smiler

    Sir, is this a jape or a mummer farce?

    Put simply I have two horseless carriages. One has a 13gal tank cost $46 to fill and gets 325-360 miles. The other car has a 10gal tank cost $34 to fill and gets 657 miles.

    One is clearly a benefit Eco and economically over the other, and that same one has some ancient script or runes that a Maester once told me read Pryus.

    Did someone say Luddite, I can scarcely disagree…