In an unprecedented move for a multi-billion dollar technology or auto company, Tesla Motors founder and CEO Elon Musk has announced that the company “will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.” In a sign of its own good faith, Musk has removed the wall of Tesla patents from the lobby of the company’s Palo Alto headquarters.
What’s behind this move? As we’ve mentioned a few times before, Musk believes it’s extremely important that humanity develops both sustainable transport and sustainable energy production as quickly as possible. He has always maintained that he founded Tesla in order to “accelerate the advent of sustainable transport.” This latest move proves that he is being true to this stated endeavor.
Musk explains that even though the company plans to eventually produce millions of cars a year, “it is impossible for Tesla to build electric cars fast enough to address the carbon crisis.” Tesla believes that other companies making electric cars, and the world in general, could benefit from a common, rapidly-evolving technology platform, he added. Tesla has developed its own electric vehicle charging technology, which has not been adopted by any other company. This move will pave the way for others to do so, if they wish.
Musk also states that Tesla believes that “applying the open source philosophy to our patents will strengthen rather than diminish Tesla’s position”, in relation to technology leadership, and the ability of the company to attract and motivate the most talented engineers.
Those are not the only ways Tesla’s position could be strengthened by the open source move. As we recently reported, Tesla is planning the construction of its first “Gigafactory” to eventually produce enough lithium-ion batteries to run 500,000 electric cars per year by 2020. Musk has also calculated that as many as 200 gigafactories will be needed to support the mainstream electric car market of the not-too-distant future. Of course there’s nothing stopping other companies getting in on the act, and they’ll need to, but Tesla could command a sizeable chunk of the battery market for electric cars it does not make, and even for home energy storage. Indeed, Tesla is already aiming to be an energy storage company, not only a car company.
However, as Musk points out, at the moment electric car programs from the major auto manufacturers and still small to non-existant, accounting for much less than even 1% of total sales. In this second decade of the 21st century, some companies still offer no zero emissions cars at all, Musk points out.
Do you think this opening up of Tesla’s patents will encourage other companies to give a much greater commitment to producing quality electric cars?