Auto Manufacturers Ambivalent Towards Tesla Patents


model-x-patentTo promote acceptance of electric cars among more drivers, Tesla recently offered to make all the patents protecting its Supercharger system and EV technology available to any auto manufacturer.

So far, the response from the world’s automobile manufacturers has been tepid… best.

Part of the problem is the Tesla offer requires others to do things the Tesla way, including providing the electricity needed for free. Tesla also wants the other companies to shoulder some of the costs of building more Supercharger charging stations at home and abroad, which would arguably benefit Tesla more than traditional automakers.

At present, there are four major recharging systems vying for acceptance in the marketplace, and none of them are compatible with the others. What we are seeing is a tech war like the one that pitted VHS against BetaMax or laser discs against DVD’s.  It would be a huge step forward if a common set of protocols could be agreed to for all electric cars.

Here’s how Honda spokesperson Angie Nucci responded to Autoblog Green when asked about the Tesla patents.

We strongly feel Honda is a leader in the field of electric drive technologies and already has one of the most energy efficient electric vehicles on the road – the 118 MPGe EPA-rated Fit EV – on the market.”

Kevin Kelly, manager of electrification technology communications for GM, said:

Right now, we don’t have anybody seriously studying [Tesla’s] patents. … We’re interested in what they’re doing more from the business side.

Not exactly ringing endorsements, are they? While other automakers have refused to respond though, at least two companies, Nissan and BMW, are actively engaged in talks with Tesla about technology sharing, centering on the fast-charging Supercharger stations. So while many automakers are ambivalent as best to Tesla’s technology-sharing offer, there are at least two companies interested in making a deal, and arguably the two companies with the strongest EV portfolio.

There is a lot of money at stake and corporate egos are also involved. The story of the electric automobile is being written as you read this, but no one knows how the story will end, or what role Tesla will yet play.

Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.