We reported just last week that Elon Musk might be planning a controversial new strategy for some of the patents his company, Tesla Motors. This weekend at a press conference introducing the Tesla Model S to the UK, Tesla raised the curtain on its bold new vision .
Engadget reports that Tesla will release the patents it holds on its proprietary SuperCharger technology in order to promote standardized charger designs for EV’s. CEO Musk has made it clear in the past that he wants to avoid a “walled garden” approach in which every EV manufacturer would have unique charging facilities for its model.
What does that mean for the rest of the electric vehicle world? Just that Tesla’s recharging protocols will now be open source, with other companies free to use and improve upon them. Ultimately, the thinking at Tesla is that standardized recharging systems will drive acceptance of electric vehicles forward and help put more EV’s on the road sooner. The Tesla Superchargers are far and away the fastest way to charge an EV, able to deliver a full charge of 265 miles of driving to a 85 kWh Model S in about an hour. Nobody else even comes close, and as it stands there remains debate within the automotive world over which charging standard to adopt; the Japanese-preferred CHAdeMO, or the American-developed SAE Combo charger.
But there’s a catch. The Tesla business model calls for free recharging for customers as long as they own their car. Tesla wants any manufacturer that uses its patents to agree to the same business model of free charging. They will also be expected to contribute to the cost of the SuperCharger network in exchange for access to the Tesla technology secrets.
Will other manufacturers agree to Musk’s terms? That remains to be seen. Few, if any companies are making a profit on their electric cars yet, and certainly not on the charging infrastructure. They may not want to saddle themselves with paying for the cost of electricity and a portion of the operating costs for the SuperCharger system while losing money on every electric car sold.
Musk has thrown down the gauntlet. Will any other companies pick it up?