I have a 2013 Tesla and it is the best car I have ever owned. Tesla’s have a sleek, futuristic style that combines performance, features, aesthetic beauty, and environmental responsibility. Teslas turn heads wherever they go and they embody an individuality that makes every car feel like one of a kind. Yet in a daring recent move, Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, has invited other automakers to jump on the bandwagon and ride into the future with their own electric models.
TESLA TEARS DOWN PATENT WALL
Elon Musk made jaws drop last week on June 12th when he announced that Tesla was opening up with patents on everything from batteries, powertrains, charging stations, sunroofs, and other component parts. Musk said that, “[T]here was a wall of Tesla patents in the lobby of our Palo Alto headquarters. That is no longer the case. They have been removed, in the spirit of the open source movement, for the advancement of electric vehicle technology.” This followed a blog post he wrote stating that, “Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.”
PLUGGING IN TO THE OPEN-SOURCE MOVEMENT
So why this revolutionary decision? In large part due to the Tesla company’s, and Elon Musk’s personal, commitment to protecting the environment and making better cars. Musk lamented the dearth of zero-emissions cars being produced by major automakers. This decision to open up the technology and make the process easier for them is a prime example of someone committed to a cause backing up their words with actions. Musk went on to say, “We think the market is plenty big enough for everyone. If we can do things that don’t hurt us and help the U.S. industry, we should do that.”
This move will do precisely that by helping standardize the electric car industry. It is expected to ultimately benefit Tesla because it will help create an electric vehicle ecosystem, creating more suppliers and helping Tesla lower its costs. Furthermore, Tesla is working on developing giant battery factories. If the patents for these batteries are open source and other automakers are producing compatible batteries this will allow Tesla to profit from supplying those batteries.
The decision also places Tesla squarely in the open source movement exemplified by Google’s Android operating system, Mozilla Firefox, Linux, Apache, and Perl. These companies are renowned for their ability to attract top industry talent and for fostering an environment where innovation and creativity flow. The fact that Tesla’s Model S is now the world’s first and only open-source car will likely galvanize the auto industry. It will help Tesla retain current its current high level of talent while also attracting new, idealistic automotive engineers as they enter the workplace.
COLLABORATING WITH THE COMPETITION
So what about the competition? Tesla isn’t worried. Musk stated that, “Our true competition is not the small trickle of non-Tesla electric cars being produced, but rather the enormous flood of gasoline cars pouring out of the world’s factories every day.” Tesla has already begun talks with BMW about possibly sharing its supercharger network. Nissan is also rumored to be wanting in on the action.
CHANNELING ITS NAMESAKE
Nikola Tesla changed the course of the world with his inventions and his development of alternating current technology. Nikola Tesla was so committed to defending AC power from the rival direct current technology that in 1907 he sold his alternating current patents to Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Co. for $216,000, about 2% of their actual worth. Today both alternating and direct current technologies form the basis of the world’s electrical systems.
Tesla is also in good company within the history of the auto industry. In 1959 Volve developed invented the V-type, three-point safety belt, a major safety innovation. The company then immediately shared it with other automakers so that more consumers could benefit from this life-saving technology. General Motors also famously shared the innovations behind their catalytic converters.
TESLA SURGES AHEAD
Tesla is already reaping the benefits for their groundbreaking decision. Stock prices have risen about 10% since the patent announcement was made and the company continues to be a public darling. Tesla also holds the distinction of being Consumer Reports’ highest rated car of all time. If other automakers do ultimately begin producing electric cars modeled after Tesla’s technology then drivers all over the world will have a reason to celebrate.