Tesla hands over keys to its technology on electric cars

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 June, 2014, 4:21am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 November, 2015, 12:03pm

Electric-car maker Tesla Motors is handing over the keys to its technology in an unusual effort to encourage other car manufacturers to expand beyond petrol-burning vehicles.

Tesla chief executive Elon Musk has promised to give away the company's entire patent portfolio to all comers, as long as they vowed not to engage in courtroom battles over intellectual property.

"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," Musk wrote in a blog on the company's website on Thursday.

The decision opens the door to more collaboration with Tesla, which is making electric systems for Daimler and Toyota Motor Corp.

Other carmakers using Tesla's technology could potentially share the cost of Tesla's charging stations, for example.

Seven years after Tesla introduced the Roadster electric sports car, which it no longer makes, electric cars still make up less than 1 per cent of sales in the United States. Drivers remain concerned about their range and the lack of places to get a charge.

Musk wants Tesla to help change that. The Californian-based company makes one vehicle - the US$70,000 Model S car - and is developing two others. Its Model X crossover is due out next year, and the firm wants to start making a cheaper model by 2017.

But Musk said Tesla could not make a dent in the market by itself, and thinks the patents could be a "modest" help to other firms developing electric cars.

"If we can do things that don't hurt us and help the US industry, then we should do that," he said.

He said Tesla discussed a potential Supercharger partnership with BMW this week. Tesla has about 100 Supercharger stations across North America and Europe that give Model S drivers a free power source when travelling long distances, and it plans to open more in China and Japan this year.

The earliest that any of Tesla's current patents expires is in 2026, so the company is relinquishing a potentially valuable long-term advantage by giving away its intellectual property to rivals.

Analysts said the announcement had little downside for Tesla and could solidify its leadership in the market.