Electric car manufacturer Tesla Motors has released all its patents to the public domain in a bid to accelerate development of electric vehicle technology.
In a blog post Thursday, CEO Elon Musk wrote that Tesla has removed the patents from the wall at the company's Palo Alto headquarters in the spirit of the open source movement.
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“Tesla Motors was created to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport. 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. Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology,” he wrote in the posting.
Musk said Tesla took out the patents because it feared big car companies would copy its technology, but then discovered the traditional motor industry was not moving swiftly into this area.
“At best, the large automakers are producing electric cars with limited range in limited volume. Some produce no zero emission cars at all,” he said.
Musk pointed to the role the electric car could play in addressing the amount of greenhouse gases released into the air, if enough of them were made to replace vehicles that burn fossil fuels.
“Given that annual new vehicle production is approaching 100 million per year and the global fleet is approximately two billion cars, it is impossible for Tesla to build electric cars fast enough to address the carbon crisis,” he said.
“ By the same token, it means the market is enormous. Our true competition is not the small trickle of non-Tesla electric cars being produced, but rather the enormous flood of gasoline cars pouring out of the world’s factories every day.”
Tesla is maker of the $70,000 US Model S, an electric car that has been widely adopted but ran into problems last year when footage hit YouTube of a Tesla on fire. There were 6,900 Model S cars sold in the first quarter after their release.
The company has released the car in Canada, moved into the U.K. in June and also has plans for China.
Tesla says it wants to encourage talented engineers from around the world to work to improve batteries and other electric car technology.
At the beginning of this year, Tesla had 203 patents covering batteries and other key features. The earliest any of Tesla's current patents expires is 2026, so the Palo Alto, California is relinquishing a potentially valuable long-term advantage.
Stifel analyst James Albertine says the announcement signals Tesla is open to collaboration as it ramps up production. It currently makes one vehicle, the Model S sedan.