When Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors announced its patents available for free for the improvement and advancement of electric vehicle technology in early June, the world saw it more like Alexander Fleming giving the world penicillin. While, certainly a bold and rather unusual move by Tesla, the response has been interesting with several automakers not making a big deal out of it, while exceptions include Mahindra, BMW and Nissan who have shown interest in working with the electric car company.
Around 1444 patents are said to have been filed by Tesla Motors which include some from inventor Nikola Tesla and other sources. Now the major conundrum here is that a patent reveals only limited information. As on today, only Tesla knows how to put the technology in-sync for it to work in a cost-effective manner. Moreover, Mr. Musk’s statement was not a legally binding document that stated the free availability of the patents, but rather a sentence in a blog post made by a company executive. No major car company would want to use Tesla’s patents, based on a blog post and then battle it out in the court for ages as nowadays people change companies quite quickly.
Another issue that prevails is with the patents itself. The battery technology that Tesla uses, linking up thousands of small format cells are patented to Panasonic and is not something other automakers have shown interest in. On the contrary, other automakers use larger format cells, which render the Tesla technology not of much use. Auto major Honda also stated that they feel that the Japanese giant is a leader in the field of electric technologies and have the most efficient electric vehicles in the world, which basically means we are better, no thank you Tesla.
General Motors too showed a lack of interest in Tesla patents, despite the fact that the company is paying close attention to the electric car company. GM stated that it does not have anyone seriously studying Tesla’s patents, but are interested in what they’re doing from the business side. Despite the lack of interest from most automakers, BMW and Nissan have been a few automakers that have shown interest in working with Tesla and secret meetings are also said to be underway. With BMW’s i range and the Nissan Leaf, both the companies are committed to the development of electric vehicles.
India’s auto giant Mahindra too has shown interest in Tesla patents. Mahindra which acquired REVA retails the e2o in India and Bhutan, and has also been working on the electric version of the Verito that will be ready for launch by the end of this year. Chetain Maini, CEO of Mahindra REVA applauded Elon Musk’s move, but also confirmed that the patents still need to be reviewed, and it would be too early to comment on the patent’s direct benefit to the company.