Tesla is opening up its electric vehicle technology, promising not to sue anybody who uses its patented tech in the hope of spurring greater adoption of eco-friendly drivetrains after becoming disillusioned with traditional car companies. The EV upstart originally believed it would need to protect its R&D out of concern that its competition would steal it, founder and CEO Elon Musk said today, but in fact has found that the mainstays of the car industry have been sluggish to even consider electric cars.
The early fears that Tesla's developments could be copied and replicated en-masse, burying the start-up in the process, failed to pan out, Musk observes. Instead, non-hydrocarbon projects have been minimal.
"At best," the outspoken entrepreneur says, "the large automakers are producing electric cars with limited range in limited volume."
Economic realities and the shortfall of subsidies have left some car firms complaining it simply doesn't make financial sense to push new powertrain technologies. Fiat's boss, for instance, surprised potential buyers of the company's 500e EV recently by asking them not to purchase the car; Fiat makes a loss on each sold, and only intends to sell just enough to satisfy its regulatory requirements in California.
In what's billed as an attempt to spur development, Tesla will now take a more flexible approach to how it handles patents. The company says it sees its primary competition as gasoline-powered models, not other EVs, and is hoping that more companies wading into the space will only benefit it.
Of course, there's still some flexibility in Musk's commitment, should any rival company get any outlandish ideas. "Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology," he says (emphasis added).
A greater adoption of Tesla-created tech could help boost research into compatible battery production, the stretch of Supercharger stations, and more, so the potential is certainly there for the company to benefit from any third-party advances that are spawned from its patents.