Tesla’s Open Source Patent Saga
This post was first published on 1st July, 2014.
After the recent, almost philanthropic action of Tesla’s, there seem to be several nagging unanswered questions looming in our heads. Here are a few that we have addressed for you, Dear Reader.
Who is Tesla?
Tesla Motors is the name of a Californian Automobile Company founded in 2003 by a group of Silicon Valley Engineers who set out to prove that electric vehicles could be awesome.
Their sports car Tesla Roadster hit the roads in early 2008, the car that can go from 0 to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds and travel for 245 miles per charge. Their cars are On Road in 37 countries.
What created this fuss?
Tesla Motors’ CEO, Elon Musk, recently raised a great deal of consternation by releasing Tesla’s patents for anyone to use “in good faith”. Amid the hue and cry of befuddled business analysts, multiple theories bubbled up and made this news fizzy.
How many open patents are they offering?
There are a minimum of 278 patents issued to Tesla in 26 countries, that which have been accounted for. Most of them are related to electromagnetic motors and electric machines.
Since they made their patents open to use, how does it affect us?
These patents can change the way our cars function drastically, the move is from fossil fuel to electricity. So one could imagine how it could affect for the better, the imminent fuel crisis in our world.
If this is good for everyone, then why the speculation?
Wall Street generalists ask questions that could make anyone speculate, questions like – Is Musk angling to make the Tesla Supercharger Technology, the industry standard? Is he trying to sell batteries from his upcoming giga-factories? Does he want more electric cars to give Tesla’s more legitimacy and attract investment? Is he simply disillusioned with patents and claiming some open-source cache? etc.
What is Tesla’s take?
Curiously enough, the answer is on Tesla’s website, right where it’s been from the very beginning. The most important motivation for Tesla is climate change – its mission is to help move the world “towards a [sustainable] solar-electric economy”, away from fossil fuels*.
Musk made the climate point in his announcement saying, “it is impossible for Tesla to build electric cars fast enough to address the carbon crisis”, and in his subsequent conference call said, “I don’t think people quite appreciate the gravity of what is going on or just how much inertia the climate has. We really need to do something.”
Really, is the environment the only reason? Isn’t Musk a businessman and his sole aim, profits?
Most analysts summarily dismissed these points, looking instead for a hidden advantage to Tesla in the next quarter. Sure, Tesla makes money. That’s what it takes to change the world!
But not taking Musk at his word, however, would be a mistake. Consider Musk’s other ventures. It’s pretty clear that SolarCity is about addressing climate change. SpaceX is about backup plan(et)s. The point is, Musk thinks bigger and longer-term than Wall Street analysts are used to.
Musk is a man with an aim. But how is it good in a business sense?
Here’s why it makes good business sense. Cars are big ticket items and major economic disruptions tend to have a negative impact on auto manufacturers. The world economy faces an even bigger risk from unchecked climate change. A warming world means more risk of costly weather extremes, including flooding, droughts and sea level rise. Dealing with all this will only suck away from disposable income, which will not be terribly good for business.
Now that’s what I’d call a real long term plan! But I think I’m with Tesla on that. Environment friendly business ethics are a must for our warming world.
References: Site1 and Site2