I’m so obsessed with SpaceX that sometimes I forget Elon Musk has another company (or six) to run. Tesla Motor Company is no slouch — despite a couple pesky fires, the Tesla Model S electric car is generally regarded as one of the safest and greenest vehicles around. And the next generation is coming — Tesla recently announced that its Model X will be available next year.
Customers have been putting down deposits of anywhere from $5,000-$40,000 for Model X for a couple of years, and initially it was scheduled to be in production by late last year. The delay arose when Tesla decided to focus on expanding sales of the Model S to Europe and Asia. But the wait seems to have been worth it, as the Model X looks pretty spiffy, and not much more expensive than the Model S. For me, the rear seat “falcon wings” are a big sell — who wouldn’t want to pretend they’re stepping into a time machine when getting into a car? Sure, that makes putting stuff on the roof pretty tough, but that’s what the optional third row of seats is for. The Model X also has two motors and four-wheel drive, and its battery pack will resemble that of the Model S, which ranges from 208-265 miles.
If that announcement is exciting, then this one is nothing short of revolutionary: Tesla has decided to do away with their patents. They took them all down from the walls of their headquarters and decided that anyone who wants to use their electric vehicle technology “in good faith” should go for it. Tesla won’t sue — in fact, they’ll be happy to contribute both to the open-source movement and to electric car design and development in general. In a Tesla Motors blog post, Musk says that while he thought patents were a good idea at first, they often “serve merely to stifle progress” and are akin to buying “a lottery ticket to a lawsuit.” While he was initially worried that Tesla’s designs would be used by other manufacturers, he admits know that he “couldn’t have been more wrong,” and that the reality, unfortunately, is that electric cars total less than 1% of all vehicle sales. Given the importance of electric car technology, Musk and Tesla want to encourage manufacturers to help fill the market with cars that don’t contribute to the carbon crisis, and to continue evolving that technology.
“Technology leadership is not defined by patents,” Musk says. I would say he’s proven himself correct.