By on June 30, 2014

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Remember when earlier this month, Tesla CEO Elon Musk released all of the patents related to his company’s offerings in the hope that all of the major players would eagerly buy into his vision thing of widespread EV production?

It hasn’t turned out as well as Musk had hoped.

Autoblog Green reports only Mahindra is interested in the patents and their potential application in future products; the company once had the e2o EV in its lineup, and is working on an EV version of its Verito Sedan. Meanwhile, General Motors is more interested in how Tesla does its business than how to put together a Model Volt S, Honda is satisfied with its own EV technology, and most of the other players aren’t saying much.

The lack of excitement may be attributed to the fact that, according to The Motley Fool:

Tesla is not revealing its trade secrets. There often is only so much information that you can get from a patent. Only Tesla knows how to put it all together in a cost-effective manner. Besides, by the time the competition digests the patents, some of them may have become outdated, and Tesla likely will have advanced to the next generation of its technology.

Though the patents seem to have more in common with a Cosby Christmas sweater than an Apple iPhone, Nissan and BMW are having secret meetings with Tesla to discuss charging technology. BMW of North America’s product and technology communications manager Matthew Russell proclaimed his employer and Tesla were “interested in the success of electro mobility” for their electric vehicles, though he declined to comment on similar announces from BMW’s competitors.

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40 Comments on “Few Majors Taking Up Tesla’s Open-Source Patent Offer...”


  • avatar
    Signal11

    Sure. Two weeks is enough time for a public shift in momentum due to a patents open sourcing.

    Right.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      It’s not “open source” when it has a giant caveat like “whatever Elon thinks is ‘good faith\'”.

      I wouldn’t touch that with a ten foot pole, if I was his competition.

  • avatar
    Z71_Silvy

    Unlike done kid and his hobby, real automakers have to worry about things like profit and staying in business.

    That is why they don’t want anything to do with this loon or his patents.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    If the automakers had been interested in doing a deal with Tesla, they would have started doing deals a long time ago. So now that that Tesla says, “Hey, free IP, come and get it!” is a no-loss pronouncement from a media-savvy business. I’m not sure what the fuss was about.

    • 0 avatar
      pookieloc

      Automakers have been, and currently are, interested in doing business with Tesla. I will cite the electric powertrain Tesla built for the Toyota RAV4, and the 10% stake in Tesla that Mercedes-Benz purchased in 2009, as obvious examples. A less obvious example is the millions of dollars Tesla makes selling emissions credits to manufacturers that do not produce electric vehicles.
      Automakers are interested in doing deals with Tesla, and they are probably investigating these patents more than this article suggests.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    “Only Tesla knows how to put it all together in a cost-effective manner.”

    Tesla isn’t profitable. It’s a bit perturbing that a financial website wouldn’t know that.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      That’s not the point of the statement (overall business profits). Moon rockets weren’t profitable, either, but reverse-engineering one from a few patents and a physical sample doesn’t mean you can build one efficiently.

      I’d like to know how they mechanically join ~7000 18650s so they all work in concert, but maybe it’s obvious if one dissects their car.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        The point of their statement was for the Motley Fool writer to demonstrate that she didn’t know what she’s talking about.

        Tesla’s approach is not hard to understand:

        1. Make a really big battery
        2. Lose money on it
        3. Hope that something changes

        Other automakers don’t take this approach because they don’t roll out products on the basis of a hope that can’t be supported by a business case.

        It shouldn’t be that hard to grasp, but the fanboys are just too clueless to get it.

        • 0 avatar
          bomberpete

          +1, Pch101

        • 0 avatar
          martinwinlow

          @ bomberpete and pch101 – I don’t really understand why you two (and others) are so anti Musk. He comes across to me as completely the opposite of how you describe him. To me he is a man of sincerity, honesty, vision and intellect and it is him rather than his companies and their products that I have invested in. Are you both just irritated with yourselves at failing to realise where the stock in SolarCity and Tesla Motors was going and missed the boat (it’s not too late, BTW)? Or do you just resent his success?

          As for profitability, it’s all in the financial reports and you can interpret them how you like. I am quite sure Tesla will be more profitable (proportional to their turnover) than the majority of the world’s main automakers very soon if it isn’t already. GM, anyone?

          Bottom line is I would be much more likely to trust Mr Musk than 2 ill-informed and jealous half-wits who are so sure about themselves that they have to hide, child-like, behind a username rather than use their real identity. Is this so that when you are proved hopelessly wrong you won’t have to face the music?

          MW

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            “I don’t really understand why you two (and others) are so anti Musk.”

            You really ought to go back and read what I wrote. I didn’t mention Musk at all.

            “As for profitability, it’s all in the financial reports and you can interpret them how you like.”

            2+2 doesn’t become 5 when the arithmetic involves things that you like.

          • 0 avatar
            bomberpete

            @martinwinlow: if insulting Pch 101 and me as “ill-informed and jealous half-wits” is your idea of making friends and influencing people, you need a Dale Carnegie course very badly.

            It’s my privilege not to like Musk’s style, as well as having doubts about Tesla Motors’ long-term viability as a car company. This magical, mystical idea that we’ll all be willing to replace gas n’ go with 4-hour recharge visits seems like madness.

            The reality of what Tesla is now does not correspond to the hype that the Motley Fool reporter bought into. Like Pch101 said, 2+2 does not equal 5, as much as people may want to believe otherwise.

            On the plus side, I said that there is a method to the Tesla madness and I guess a payoff somewhere down the road for stockholders. Or not. So what’s wrong with a little healthy cynicism?

            As for for my avatar, just about everyone at TTAC has one. FWIW, my name is Peter Engel.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            @bomberpete: Obviously, Martin doesn’t WANT to ‘make friends’ with either you or Pch for your personalities. Sure, it is your privilege to dislike him, but name calling such as what you two have offered COULD be seen as libel were Musk even fractionally the type you claim. However, my argument with both of you is on a completely different matter and one with which I have argued with PCH many times. Your entire argument about BEVs is based on assumptions that have very little basis in reality.

            “This magical, mystical idea that we’ll all be willing to replace gas n’ go with 4-hour recharge visits seems like madness.”
            * Why do you assume that the “4-hour recharge visits” will remain a constant? For that matter, why does it matter; you already have to make 6-hour recharge visits with existing ICE transportation unless you’ve added extra fuel tanks to your vehicle. For that matter, the only time you NEED to worry about “4-hour recharge visits” is when you’re on a road trip, which for the vast majority of people comes but once a year. Then, unlike you with your every 6 hours having to go to a gas station, BEV owners start with a “full tank” every single day–of course, assuming that they purchased a recharger unit the same time they purchased their BEV. As such, the ICE is far more limiting simply because you HAVE to visit one every six hours of driving–no matter what. And your fuel costs anywhere from 5x to 10x what that BEV’s fuel costs for the same distance driven.

            Am I saying BEVs are perfect? No. They’re no more perfect than any other type of transportation; they all have their drawbacks and you have to assess which set of compromises works best for you. On the other hand, for most people’s suburban lifestyle–which includes daily commuting to a job or simply maintaining a household–a BEV is a much more practical choice. At least, it is when it offers enough battery range to handle an entire day’s worth of driving and not just a one-way commute.

      • 0 avatar
        anomaly149

        re: “I’d like to know how they mechanically join ~7000 18650s so they all work in concert, but maybe it’s obvious if one dissects their car.”

        LOTS of heavy battery handling circuitry. (a full set per strand)

        • 0 avatar
          bomberpete

          “@vulpine: “Sure, it is your privilege to dislike him, but name calling such as what you two have offered COULD be seen as libel were Musk even fractionally the type you claim.”

          Jeez, you Tesla fanboys are a testy lot, aren’t you? That almost sounds like a threat. I never suggested Musk is in any way dishonest or unethical. I just think too many people have bought into the hype and have honest doubts about how Tesla EV tech can work as a mainstream technology.

          If you’re an attorney, perhaps you can explain to me how anything I said about this public figure is in any way libelous?

          “However, my argument with both of you is on a completely different matter and one with which I have argued with PCH many times. Your entire argument about BEVs is based on assumptions that have very little basis in reality.”

          I won’t go into your arguments because I’m sure they have merits for some people: those with single-family homes or nearby recharge stations, who can handle the up-front cost, who can conveniently get this very complex piece of machinery easily serviced nearby, and whose driving requirements match the criteria you set out.

          The shortfall in your rationale is that this does not include most people I know. I think you understand that.

          From everything I’ve read, the Tesla sounds like a wonderful machine. Yes, I’m sure battery/distance range will improve.

          Many of my objections stem from the growing Tesla meme that almost everyone should be the EV guinea pig today. It’s one answer, but not THE ANSWER.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          @Bomberpete: I did say that argument between you and martin was not mine. I just pointed out that calling him names could be cause for litigation since the particular names used are quite disparaging. That’s the last time I’ll mention that argument.

          However, I also believe your arguments against the Tesla and against EVs in general are far too narrow-minded. You seem to have no concept or desire to understand the potential of full EVs especially as the technologies mature. Just remember, it took ICE vehicles some 20 years to mature enough to be common and almost 50 years all told to be the primary mode of transportation for most people. In 50 years, there may be no such thing as petroleum oil any more as we seek ever more complex ways to squeeze oil out of rock. Even if there is any remaining, the price per gallon may be prohibitively expensive for the average driver. You see, even as a “conservative”, I realize that the only constant is change and our world is changing faster than many people can cope with.

          And that IS my point; things will not stay the same, no matter how strongly you fight for it. They simply cannot stay the same the way they did for so many millennia. Once change starts, it progresses at a logarithmic scale and this particular Century has barely begun. Look at how much change we’ve already seen in a mere 14 years!

          I’ve never claimed there is only one answer to any problem, but the Tesla is the best CURRENT answer to our changing vehicle needs.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I just want Nissan to copy Tesla’s gas gauge. The one on the Leaf isn’t accurate; it must be constantly scaled for conditions.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    It’s silly to expect the major players to just ‘jump onto the bandwagon’ when many of them are already committed to their own technologies. I would far more expect them to quietly analyze the patents and just as quietly license the ones that make the most sense with their own ideas. Nissan and BMW’s quiet talks about the charging technology are much more in line with what I expected.

    That said, let’s give this open sourcing a little more time and see what the others come up with.

  • avatar
    anomaly149

    Patents on key technology wouldn’t stop any automaker from slightly tweaking the thing and re-patenting. That tells me there’s just nothing worthwhile in Tesla’s portfolio, otherwise we’d see a dozen almost identical patents, like there are on such banal things as plastic push-rivets.

    5,000 laptop batteries hooked to a linear machine does not a realistic future space unicorn make, especially when the charger isn’t standard.

    • 0 avatar
      ChiefPontiaxe

      I’m a patent attorney, and your comment is replete with so many inaccuracies it makes my head hurt. Or maybe it’s Monday.

      • 0 avatar
        anomaly149

        I’d feel exactly the same way if I hadn’t done a patent search on plastic push-pins in the past month. (and a few other things)

        I highly recommend it, it’s really depressing. “Salami Science” has a new friend in salami patenting.

  • avatar
    bomberpete

    Musk is outrageous and media-savvy in a way those companies can’t be. Combine that with the fact that most of the IP really wouldn’t be theirs, and why should they play into his little PR machine?

  • avatar
    bomberpete

    “Tesla isn’t profitable. It’s a bit perturbing that a financial website wouldn’t know that.”

    That Musk guy, he really knows how to mix up some powerful Kool-Aid

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Several of the majors have developed reasonably effective EVs. What can Tesla offer them? The principal problems lie in battery capacity, density, cost, life and packaging. Tesla’s approach to cost is to use the cheapest possible cells and their packaging, while good is probably hurt by using the cylindricals. Everybody who wants to build an EV is hampered by the battery basics.

    Tesla’s IP doesn’t even allow Tesla to make money on a $75K+ car.

  • avatar
    LeadHead

    Why would they? The whole open-sourcing of the patents was just a media stunt to boost interest in Tesla. I HIGHLY doubt that there is anything in those patents that major automakers haven’t been aware of for a long time. Just scroll through the patent site do a search for GM, Chrysler, or Ford. They each file dozens of patents every week, including a ton on electric and hybrid vehicles.

  • avatar
    ChiefPontiaxe

    As a patent attorney, I would not counsel my automaker client(s) to go ahead and freely infringe Tesla’s patents on the mere basis of a press release.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      And I’d take your advice.

      However, since you’re an attorney, I’d like to ask a question. Isn’t Musk a principal and wouldn’t something like this from him carry some sort of legal weight? So, if there was a legal tussle, wouldn’t Musk’s statement hinder his own litigation?

      • 0 avatar
        ChiefPontiaxe

        Yes, an accused infringer can argue waiver, estoppel etc., but who wants to spend millions in litigation fees to determine this?

        • 0 avatar
          KixStart

          “but who wants to spend millions in litigation fees to determine this?”

          No sane person, that’s for sure.

          Thanks for the reply.

        • 0 avatar
          Sigivald

          Even more, beyond “it’s just a press release”, there was that “good faith” caveat that most people seem to have just skimmed over.

          Without a clear definition of what “good faith” use of the patents *by Tesla’s competition* means in this context, it’s poison.

          (Maybe he means “use to make a vehicle but not to attack other companies”, which is fair and simple enough.

          But one should spell it out, not make people infer – especially if one wants giant business entities to take on the risk of using the patents.)

  • avatar
    TheyBeRollin

    Resistance from NIH engineering departments will be another big obstacle.

    The thing is that Tesla/Musk know that they need EVs to reach critical mass if they hope to survive. Giving away anything that a competitor might have to engineer around is a relatively-cheap way to do this.

    Smartphone manufacturers should do something similar. Lock all the executives in a room with just cheerios and water, only allowing them to leave after everyone has either decided to make a public announcement that they’ll no longer enforce their patents, they all have binding agreements to license technology to every other, or they’re all dead.

    Right now, patents are severely hindering progress in numerous fields that could see rapid advancement without them.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      Which fields?

      I don’t see any major hindrances in smartphones – most (all?) of the makers seem to already do cross-licensing or straight licensing deals.

      New progress tends to be innovation that is naturally itself patentable; perhaps you mean that the existing patents are keeping the very things that are patented from being universalized?

      But that’s the whole point of the system – to reward the inventor, rather than having the invention spread to the competition who didn’t have to put in any *work* on it.

      If not that, can you clarify what you mean, what progress you have in mind, exactly?

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    What say you we give this one more week, perhaps the other manufacturers will have flooded the marked with Model S clones by then…

    • 0 avatar
      bomberpete

      Here’s my problem with Tesla — the blind belief that it’s THE ANSWER. Last week my friend’s ’96 Maxima with over 200K gave up the ghost.

      In addition to Prius and the usual Camcordima/Focorollivic transportation device suggestions, one of her Facebook friends had the 14-karat chutzpah to say she should wait for the $60K Model S. Ridiculous.

      I could be cynical and say that I hope Tesla quickly deposited this person’s check in his PayPal account. But as Nixon used to say, that would be wrong.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        “… one of her Facebook friends had the 14-karat chutzpah to say she should wait for the $60K Model S.”

        Why should she have to wait for what’s already available? Just order one. By your own description, said driver put nearly 20 years on the car with 200,000 miles. Even based on a rough average $3.00/gallon that Maxima went through 8,000 gallons of fuel (approximate based on 25mpg) or $24,000 in fuel alone. Considering the current price of both the Maxima and the current price of fuel, the two come into almost perfect balance with the price of the Tesla without having to buy another drop of gasoline in the lifetime of the car. It actually does make logical sense.

        Oh, and Musk no longer owns PayPal; but I’m sure you already knew that.

        • 0 avatar
          bomberpete

          While that was some nice evangelizing in supposedly understanding my friend’s current needs, she told me that Tesla/all EV is a non-starter. Aside from initial cost and no convenient servicing, there is no recharging in her condo.

          Yes, I did know Musk sold PayPal to eBay a while ago. I happen to admire what he did there. I only used it as an example of how to quickly pay people. But maybe martinwinslow, Vulpine and you know what new technology Tesla now uses to pay its vendors?

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Ok, assuming that by Condo you meant “Privately-owned apartment”, i.e. “real” property, then I find it difficult to believe that said ‘friend’ doesn’t have reserved parking spaces in the garage where a charging unit may be mounted. The complaint comes across more as reaching for an excuse rather than a vailid argument. Such a thing isn’t even impossible in my townhouse (which is owned, not leased) despite the fact that I have an HOA that tries to restrict any ‘visible’ changes to the neighborhood and its architecture where all parking is outdoors in off-street pads. A little imagination and a charging station can be ‘buried’ either in the front landscaping or even underneath the pavement itself between my two parking slots.

            You see, rather than looking for excuses to avoid a new technology, I look for ways to make it more accessible. Such a charging station would appreciate the townhouse’s value as it would be pre-equipped for the next buyer who may own or want an EV.


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