Does Tesla plan to share its battery technology with other automakers?

Admirers of Elon Musk know that he isn’t in the game for money or personal glory – he wants to see EVs displace dinosaur-burners, whether Tesla is the one building them or not. Speaking at the company’s first-quarter shareholders’ meeting, Musk expressed frustration with the other automakers for moving so slowly, and hinted that he’s thinking about offering them a helping hand (seen here around 44:00). 

 

“I’m contemplating doing something fairly significant on that front, which would be kind of controversial with respect to Tesla’s patents,” said the Edison of Electromobility. “I probably want to write something so I can articulate it properly, and explain the reasoning for the decision.”

This week, the tech site Engadget reported that Musk clarified his intentions and that he specifically wants to open up the design of the Supercharger system. Tesla’s PR team quickly responded, stating that while Tesla is interested in sharing the use of its Supercharger network, that’s not necessarily the patents that Musk was referring to.  

Tesla has several battery-related technologies that other EV-makers would love to get their hands on. Tesla’s battery chemistry is not only better than anything else in a production vehicle, but better than any of the latest stuff in the labs, claimed Musk (around 47:00 in the video above): “We have yet to see even a single example…of a cell working at the laboratory level that is better than the one that we have, or the ones that we expect to come out with.”

The Disruptors of Detroit also employ a unique battery pack design, with clever cell sorting, cooling and safety features that make it possible to use so many 18650 cells.

Musk was in the UK this week to celebrate the delivery of the first right-hand-drive Model S, and the BBC asked if he was considering opening up Tesla’s patents. “You’re on the right track,” said he. “We don’t want to cut a path through the jungle and then lay a bunch of landmines behind us.”

The Beeb noted that this wouldn’t be the first time Musk has given away a big idea. His “outlandish” (we would say “visionary”) Hyperloop has been open-source from the start. He has has said several times that other automakers would be welcome to participate in the Supercharger system. SpaceX doesn’t even file patents, but that’s mainly to protect the ideas from the Chinese, Musk said.

 

Updated 6/10/14 10:00AM EST to include comments from Tesla’s PR team.

Sources: TeslaEngadget, BBC
Image: Jeff Cooper/Flickr