Electric car manufacturer Tesla has confirmed that it will be opening up its patents to other manufacturers in order to boost the adoption and technological development of electric cars.
Tesla’s billionaire founder Elon Musk said that the decision had been made “in the spirit of the open source movement” and “for the advancement of electric vehicle technology”.
“If we clear a path to the creation of compelling electric vehicles, but then lay intellectual property landmines behind us to inhibit others, we are acting in a manner contrary to that goal,” wrote Musk in a blog post announcing the move.
Tesla's first electric car has been launched this month in the UK. The Tesla Model S, a luxury saloon car priced between £50,000 and £100,000, has a range of 300 miles and will be supported by a fledgling network of Tesla's 'supercharger' stations.
Musk notes that there is a global fleet of some 2 billion cars with 100 million new vehicles added to this every year, and that if electric cars are to help address the carbon crisis they must be produced in far greater volumes than they are currently.
In comparison Tesla only sold 22,500 Model S cars in 2013 and even the best-selling all-electric vehicle (the Nissan Leaf) has only sold 100,00 units.
“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,” wrote Musk. “We believe that Tesla, other companies making electric cars, and the world would all benefit from a common, rapidly-evolving technology platform.”
In a subsequent press conference Musk said that his company would continue to file for patents but that it would make them freely available in order to avoid ‘patent trolls’; individuals who enforce patent rights to collect fees rather than develop technology, and are often seen as a plague on the mobile industry.
Although Musk has framed the decision as an ethical one, experts say that it is more like a high-risk, high-reward gamble on the industry as a whole. Tesla may not succeed if it continues to develop and scale its technology in isolation – if other car makers buy into its techniques then they could spread far more quickly.
Speaking to The Verge, automotive analyst Thilo Koslowski said: “For Tesla to succeed it has to create vastly more vehicles, and that will only be possible if other big manufacturers buy into their technology.”