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June 12, 2014 10:50 AM   Subscribe

Tesla Motors announced today that the company will no longer defend its patent portfolio, on the heels of an earlier announcement that the company would open up the designs and specifications for its "supercharger" system.
posted by schmod (80 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
"In good faith". Discuss.
posted by jaduncan at 10:52 AM on June 12 [4 favorites]


Let's give them something to talk about school of PR ... good for them. We'll see if it helps.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 10:52 AM on June 12


This sounds really cool. Is it as cool as it sounds?
posted by redsparkler at 10:54 AM on June 12 [3 favorites]


Elon is trying to establish standards, which he has an existing lead on. Standards are everything, as seen in the software world.
posted by stbalbach at 10:57 AM on June 12 [10 favorites]


PR, schmee-R. This sounds like a really good thing and unless it's some sort of mega-backdoor means of dragging someone into a patent dispute somewhere down the road* then I don't see how it's not a win for the public at large.

Not only because people can now theoretically ("in good faith" disclaimer aside, but it is a bit scary) use the technology that Tesla developed but also because it's a potential case-in-point for people arguing against restrictive patent law and policies to point at and say "Look, they're doing what you say would bankrupt you! You are full of lies and malice!"

On Preview: Standards, yep. That's a good enough wording for it for me.

* To be clear I do not think it is for a multitude of reasons, first among them being that Tesla would either have to sue one of the huge automakers, which seems unlikely to succeed, or sue a smaller company, which seems unlikely to be profitable. Plus seven-dimensional chess...
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:00 AM on June 12 [3 favorites]


Very smooth. I like the cut of Elon's jib. Also, I really want a Model S....
posted by digitalprimate at 11:06 AM on June 12 [2 favorites]


Agreed, this is all about establishing standards --> establishing infrastructure --> solidifying competitive advantage. And none of those things are negative. Those cars are the state of the art, and that's the way everyone ought to build fully electric cars (for now, til someone comes up with something better).
posted by Mister_A at 11:09 AM on June 12 [4 favorites]


digitalprimate: "Very smooth. I like the cut of Elon's jib. Also, I really want a Model S...."

Coming soon, the Ford Telsa Z
posted by chavenet at 11:10 AM on June 12 [2 favorites]


Cool! I'm sure that Tesla are only doing this because they think it'll benefit them -- get other, larger manufacturers to help build charging infrastructure, dispel the novelty/tree-hugger feel of electric cars, generate good PR for the company, etc -- but it's hard to see this as anything other than a good move for consumers.
posted by metaBugs at 11:10 AM on June 12 [5 favorites]


CAn you imagine if Honda snapped this firm up? Said Elon, help us mass produce and market this? I can imagine - you're looking at $30k (US) electrics with 200 mi. range, something like that. You're looking at commercial viability.
posted by Mister_A at 11:11 AM on June 12


My cynical thought, when I heard rumblings about this last week, was that it neatly tied into Elon Musk's plan to build a $5B battery "gigafactory" that will need some additional customers.
posted by another zebra at 11:12 AM on June 12 [8 favorites]


til someone comes up with something better

... better than... state of the art.....

You must be talking about cutting edge!?!

Are you a witch?

posted by RolandOfEld at 11:12 AM on June 12 [3 favorites]


This is a good way to avoid a takeover. Make your most valuable asset worthless.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:12 AM on June 12 [12 favorites]


Yes, go ahead and build a bridge out of me!
posted by Mister_A at 11:13 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


This is a good way to avoid a takeover. Make your most valuable asset worthless.

Reminds me a bit of Harry Houdini -- create a stunt, pull it off, and then reveal it when others come in on your bit as you create something new...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 11:16 AM on June 12 [4 favorites]


you're looking at $30k (US) electrics with 200 mi. range, something like that. You're looking at commercial viability.

This is the conversation I had with my in-laws last week after we saw a Model S cruise by (an exceedingly rare sight around here). I said, this is a really great $70,000 car. There's no reason that, in the next five or ten years, we won't see an improved version of this technology--without the luxury accouterments--in a $30k car. Battery technology is getting better every day; as soon as there's even the whiff of an infrastructure to support them, modestly-priced all-electric cars "as good as" the Tesla ought to be a lock.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:19 AM on June 12 [3 favorites]


RolandOfEld: "You must be talking about cutting edge!?!"

Bleeding edge, even.
posted by Strange Interlude at 11:25 AM on June 12


I had a nearly identical conversation with my wife last week when we saw a Model S on the freeway, uncleozzy. I think I owe you a Pepsi
posted by Doleful Creature at 11:27 AM on June 12


Cherry, please.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:29 AM on June 12 [4 favorites]


Teslas are surprisingly... well not common, but far from rare around here (Fairfax County, Va.). I work in the same building as a big construction firm with a lot of well-paid middle-aged engineers who have plenty of disposable income and love their tech toys. There are at least two that park in our parking garage daily (and plug in to an outlet there in one case) and rarely does a day go by when I don't see one on the streets somewhere.

And I want one so badly.
posted by Naberius at 11:30 AM on June 12


Aren't several states very close to effectively banning the sale of Tesla vehicles through legislative shenanigans?
posted by Gin and Comics at 11:42 AM on June 12


"In good faith". Discuss.

Exactly. What does using their technology not in "good faith" look like? Can you sell SuperCharger port add-ons to a Nissan Volt to let it use the Tesla charging network?
posted by smackfu at 11:42 AM on June 12


uncleozzy: "This is the conversation I had with my in-laws last week after we saw a Model S cruise by (an exceedingly rare sight around here). I said, this is a really great $70,000 car. There's no reason that, in the next five or ten years, we won't see an improved version of this technology--without the luxury accouterments--in a $30k car."

Dirty secret: The "luxury" stuff is cheap. At most, it probably accounts for about 10% of the car's price. While Tesla could certainly benefit from improved economies of scale with regard to the production of the "conventional" components within its cars (ie. the body, drivetrain, etc), it still leaves the elephant in the room: Batteries.

You can try to build a cheap electric car, as Chevy and Nissan have. You end up cutting enough corners that you end up with a still-expensive car that has poor performance, and feels cheap. Cars generally don't scale linearly in price -- a $50,000 car is definitely not "twice as good" as a $25,000 car.

However, in Tesla's case, the $70,000 Model S is easily "twice as good" as a Leaf or Volt, and even holds its own against comparably-priced luxury cars (especially with regards to performance).

Elon Musk knows that nobody is going to buy an ugly car that costs $50,000 and has a mushy suspension and uncomfortable seats, regardless of how good it otherwise performs as an electric car.

And, no. Battery technology has not fundamentally changed in recent history, and the production of Lithium Ion cells is constrained by the materials used to produce them (which happen to be rare and quite nasty).

I don't think that there's going to be a slam-dunk for Tesla with regards to a cheaper car until battery technology has some sort of breakthrough (which will basically necessitate the development of cells that can be made from less exotic materials).
posted by schmod at 11:46 AM on June 12 [3 favorites]


I was at a talk in SF with Gov. Rick Perry last night where he talked about luring Tesla to Texas and advocating free market blah blah blah to drive the innovation needed to develop solutions to climate change. This seemed pretty ironic given that sales ban (which I'm pretty sure includes Texas), I thought about asking him directly about it but didn't get a chance.

This step from Tesla seems like a pretty huge step though!
posted by TwoWordReview at 11:47 AM on June 12


I don't think that there's going to be a slam-dunk for Tesla with regards to a cheaper car until battery technology has some sort of breakthrough (which will basically necessitate the development of cells that can be made from less exotic materials).

Huh! Thanks for the head-straightening (even if it is super-depressing).
posted by uncleozzy at 11:49 AM on June 12


smackfu: "Exactly. What does using their technology not in "good faith" look like? Can you sell SuperCharger port add-ons to a Nissan Volt to let it use the Tesla charging network?"

I'm pretty sure that this would be an implicit "yes," given the comments that have already been made. This would only further cement Tesla's standard as the industry standard, which is certainly in the company's long-term best interests.

I'm assuming that "bad faith" would entail somehow attempting to patent a derivative of one of Tesla's patents, and then suing Tesla (or other organizations utilizing Tesla's "free" patent portfolio).

But it's certainly an interesting clause...
posted by schmod at 11:50 AM on June 12


What does Musk even care? He is planning to leave the Earth anyway.
posted by srboisvert at 11:52 AM on June 12 [4 favorites]


This is a good way to avoid a takeover. Make your most valuable asset worthless.

The asset has not been made worthless. The patents still exist. Leaving them undefended will weaken your position should you try to later enforce, but I imagine the "good faith" issue can be a distinction that helps there - courts can see the difference between someone trying to build a competing car in the spirit of the announcement and someone trying to sabotage standards or whatever.
posted by anonymisc at 11:54 AM on June 12


Can you imagine if Honda snapped this firm up?
It is difficult to buy a company like Tesla that is currently valued at 25 billion dollars.
posted by bhnyc at 11:54 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


And, no. Battery technology has not fundamentally changed in recent history, and the production of Lithium Ion cells is constrained by the materials used to produce them (which happen to be rare and quite nasty).

I think you're missing what is actually happening. Battery technology doesn't have to fundamentally change (that would be nice, but not necessary), it just has to get cheaper, and for the last few years, it's been doing exactly that at quite a fair clip. If the gigafactory goes ahead, I would put my bets on Tesla having done the math and concluded that their factory can make the batteries at the price they're aiming for.

The gigafactory is a whole lot more plausible than the idea that a start-up could take on the big auto makers and not only get a car to market (impossible!) but outright school the big guys at their own game. Tesla has already done that. They seem to know their stuff.
posted by anonymisc at 11:58 AM on June 12


If this gets the Survolt down in price it would make me happy, because that is one fucking SEXY electric car. Just sayin'... But then again, it ain't gonna ever be in my price range. I'm lucky if I'd ever be able to afford a cheap Tesla S, let alone the current pricing (and I'd rather have the Model X, if I could).
posted by symbioid at 12:01 PM on June 12


My take: Elon Musk thinks this car-making stuff is too easy. In 2003, he decides, "Hey, electric cars would be awesome, let's build one," and within a decade, comes out with a 100% electric car with the highest performance rating ever, highest safety rating ever, the company's stock goes up like 500% in a year, and people are falling over themselves to get their hands on this car, despite the fact it costs a small fortune.

Meanwhile, the other automakers are like, "Yeah, well, we have an electric car now too! It only goes 1/4 the distance as a Tesla before it has to switch over to gasoline, but it only costs half as much!"*

And everybody in the world is like, "But, but...I don't want that car. I want a Tesla. Elon, seriously, how can I get an electric car like yours? I don't have a bajillion dollars. Will you take my first-born in exchange for a Model S?"

And so Elon's like, "Gah, we're working on it, but we're just one car company! Here--GM, Ford, Honda, take our technology, and build some damn electric cars people want. Ok? It's not that hard."

*Yeah yeah, I just pulled these numbers out of my ear, but you get the idea.
posted by gueneverey at 12:08 PM on June 12 [7 favorites]


I'd love a Model S drive train and control package in my Honda CR-V. Make it happen!
posted by planetesimal at 12:17 PM on June 12


I'm going to be willfully non-cynical on this, and just be wide-eyed and hopeful it's a change in the way beneficial innovation is distributed.
posted by AMValen at 12:23 PM on June 12 [2 favorites]


Elon Musk gets compared to Tony Stark a lot, but since Stark never reveals the secrets of any of his tech (seriously Stark, screw Iron Man, that battery on your chest that can apparently generate more power than a hundred jet engines and recharge itself could save the world), he is now cooler than Tony Stark.

Yes, I said it.
posted by lumpenprole at 12:39 PM on June 12 [8 favorites]


I want a wagon or van with a Model S drivetrain, about the size of a Volvo V70 wagon or whatever the new VW van is going to be. The Model S can't carry my biggest bass, much less two of them plus passengers.

And... ubiquitous electric scooters and motorcycles with industry-standard batteries/charging. Yes yes yes zoom zoom zoom.
posted by Dreidl at 12:53 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


> I want a wagon or van with a Model S drivetrain

You want X.
posted by planetesimal at 1:04 PM on June 12


Battery technology doesn't have to fundamentally change (that would be nice, but not necessary), it just has to get cheaper

Electric cars being less expensive would certainly be nice, but it would also be good if they got better at energy density. If they could build one that could go nearly as far on one charge as most sensible people would ever want to drive in a day, that would be a different proposition than the one they're making today.

As for what is possible, I recently enjoyed this hour-long video from Stanford that describes some of the challenges of building better rechargeable batteries. Lots of other groups are of course working on different approaches to the problem, but this is the only video I've seen that goes into some detail.
posted by sfenders at 1:38 PM on June 12


currently valued at 25 billion dollars

By whom? That's not market cap I'm sure?
posted by Mister_A at 1:38 PM on June 12


Son of a gun, 25B market cap.
posted by Mister_A at 1:40 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


A bit insane in my humble opinion.
posted by Mister_A at 1:40 PM on June 12


Hey General Motors - can you step up to the plate too? The Volt's drivetrain concept is a thing of beauty, and it's patented. If you're not going to make a car that appeals me and uses that drivechain concept, let someone else. Kthnxbye :-)
posted by anonymisc at 2:41 PM on June 12


> If they could build one that could go nearly as far on one charge as most sensible people would ever want to drive in a day, that would be a different proposition than the one they're making today.

Have you ever driven 200 miles in one go? I don't know about you, but I need to stop after about five hours.
posted by brenton at 2:48 PM on June 12


I've gone 750 miles in one day, many times. Usually on roads where at an average speed one might travel closer to 300 miles in five hours. If you have someone else to share the driving it's not so hard. I'm sure there are many more people who never drive more than 50 miles a day. Personally it wouldn't cause me much inconvenience to live with a range of 400 miles, taking an extra day for longer trips. Anyway, range anxiety is a thing.

When imagining the glorious future where we'll all use battery-powered cars and estimating how far they'll go in cold weather with a headwind on the highway, I take half the advertised range as a rule of thumb.
posted by sfenders at 3:20 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


estimating how far they'll go in cold weather

These days they have heaters to keep the batteries in the optimum temp range. The heaters don't have that big an impact on energy usage compared to accelerating a big hunk of human and car related junk down a highway.
posted by jaduncan at 3:26 PM on June 12


This is, BTW, why they sell so well in Scandinavia.
posted by jaduncan at 3:28 PM on June 12


Have you ever driven 200 miles in one go? I don't know about you, but I need to stop after about five hours.

I actually have. I've personally maxed out at about 300 miles (Omaha to Minneapolis for a friend's wedding that I was almost late to; it sucked), but I have friends (most from western states) who don't bat an eye at hoping in a car with a few people and driving for 6 or 7 hours straight with no breaks except for the occasional roadside driver swap. I love the idea of the Tesla, but my most frequent long drives are either pushing the outer barriers of the current range or beyond it. I hope this is the impetus for some developments on the range front.
posted by protocoach at 3:37 PM on June 12


Law firms handle his patent applications on a pro bono basis, and boy, does he patent a lot – although he always signs the rights over to the Free Intellect Foundation, as contributions to their obligation-free infrastructure project.

In IP geek circles, Manfred is legendary; he's the guy who patented the business practice of moving your e-business somewhere with a slack intellectual property regime in order to evade licensing encumbrances. He's the guy who patented using genetic algorithms to patent everything they can permutate from an initial description of a problem domain – not just a better mousetrap, but the set of all possible better mousetraps. Roughly a third of his inventions are legal, a third are illegal, and the remainder are legal but will become illegal as soon as the legislatosaurus wakes up, smells the coffee, and panics. There are patent attorneys in Reno who swear that Manfred Macx is a pseudo, a net alias fronting for a bunch of crazed anonymous hackers armed with the Genetic Algorithm That Ate Calcutta: a kind of Serdar Argic of intellectual property, or maybe another Bourbaki math borg. There are lawyers in San Diego and Redmond who swear blind that Macx is an economic saboteur bent on wrecking the underpinning of capitalism, and there are communists in Prague who think he's the bastard spawn of Bill Gates by way of the Pope.

Manfred is at the peak of his profession, which is essentially coming up with whacky but workable ideas and giving them to people who will make fortunes with them. He does this for free, gratis. In return, he has virtual immunity from the tyranny of cash; money is a symptom of poverty, after all, and Manfred never has to pay for anything.
- Accelerando, by our own cstross
posted by Evilspork at 3:43 PM on June 12 [7 favorites]


Range anxiety is a function of unfamiliarity - it evaporates as people gain first-hand experience and word of mouth spreads. Sure, there are plenty of people who routinely drive a gas-guzzling 4x4 to the grocery store just in case someday they want to drive through a snowy mountain range - that's the same anxiety taking a different form - but there is also a hell of a big market for cars that aren't 4x4 and are designed to be superb every day instead of once in a blue moon.

The supercharger network takes some of the wind out of it too.
posted by anonymisc at 3:45 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


These days they have heaters to keep the batteries in the optimum temp range.

Cold weather will still have some effect. If nothing else, cold air is significantly more dense; that alone could take 10% off your range according to my best wild guess. Gasoline-powered cars usually have no trouble keeping their engines warm with waste heat, and they get noticeably worse fuel efficiency in the winter.

Tesla does reportedly handle it better than others, do doubt that's what many of the patents are about. But if they do any extensive testing to see how all the various factors including winter weather affect their cars' driving range in practice, they don't seem to make the results public. They prefer to aim their marketing at people who don't care about such details, people for whom their enormous battery packs and fast charging stations are more than enough. So we just have miscellaneous anecdotes from forums, journalists, and occasional Tesla PR stunts, from which it's difficult to get any real answers.
posted by sfenders at 3:52 PM on June 12


Elon Musk gets compared to Tony Stark a lot, but since Stark never reveals the secrets of any of his tech (seriously Stark, screw Iron Man, that battery on your chest that can apparently generate more power than a hundred jet engines and recharge itself could save the world), he is now cooler than Tony Stark.

Hah, it's actually the other way around. The character Tony Stark was modeled on Elon Musk, says the director of the Iron Man movies.

Tony Stark only wishes he was Elon Musk =P
posted by xdvesper at 4:01 PM on June 12 [4 favorites]


Elon Musk wins one internet.
posted by TwoWordReview at 4:08 PM on June 12 [2 favorites]


Cool! I'm sure that Tesla are only doing this because they think it'll benefit them

I don't know about "only", but of course they think it will benefit them. They're a presumably rational company interested in making money. Part of the take-away here is that ther is a viable and profitable alternative to using lawyers like trained pitbulls to keep your secrets secret.
posted by dry white toast at 4:09 PM on June 12


Cool.
posted by homunculus at 4:27 PM on June 12


"Good faith"? What auto manufacturer would touch this? GM isn't going to sink $1B into developing a new car based on a "It's cool, bro" from Musk.

And it's not GM dumping all that money into it, we'll just a few other small companies making not quite enough $80k vehicles to meet the "expensive electric luxury car" demand.
posted by sideshow at 4:47 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


"Good faith"? What auto manufacturer would touch this?

If Legal is all worried, then instead of licensing the tech from Tesla for the usual fee, I assume you could license the tech from Tesla with no fee. Using tech developed by other companies is hardly an untrod path.
posted by anonymisc at 5:18 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


Man, Musk is like an INDUSTRIALIST. Not some namby-pamby start-up CEO making money off solving trivial problems or being a rentier, or a caretaker of a company started 100 years ago and still doing the same stuff, but a big thinker with big ideas who thinks business can solve actual real problems. I mean, sometimes wrong and sometimes crazy, but serious props for the big ideas, like Henry Ford and a living wage so people could, you know, buy his Fords.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:44 PM on June 12 [16 favorites]


Elon Musk's plan to build a $5B battery "gigafactory"

A few weeks after that announcement came this from Japan about a new wonder battery that is going into production (designed by same engineer who made the Prius battery). Musk's $5B factory is already out-competed.
posted by stbalbach at 5:56 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


Good faith"? What auto manufacturer would touch this? GM isn't going to sink $1B into developing a new car based on a "It's cool, bro" from Musk.

I have to assume that if this announcement means anything at all, that tesla will sign an agreement with anybody who asks.
posted by empath at 6:06 PM on June 12


I get the cynicism but I don't think it's the case. I was in-house counsel at a company that had an internal policy of only using patents defensively against bad faith actors (trolls, mostly.) Never using them offensively, period. There are quite a few CEOs out there who have learned first-hand that patents can get in the way of progress, but still feel they MUST have them because to not do so would cripple them in the patent cold war stakes. And they're right, pretty much. It's cool to see someone like Elon Musk come right out and say it. Lots of goodwill generated. Not much to lose at all, since they're already the recognized leader with an established patent portfolio. And actually makes sense for the narrow context he's talking about: building the electric car industry and getting lots of people interested in growing it, which is good for Tesla (a company which, I believe, is having some financial concerns lately.) It's a win win for them.
posted by naju at 6:14 PM on June 12 [4 favorites]


A few weeks after that announcement came this from Japan about a new wonder battery

As far as press releases about new wonder batteries go, I'd rate that one considerably less plausible than this from ORNL.

Increasing my skepticism about anything in that Extremetech article is the claim that a battery not made of rare earth metals is somehow exceptional. Maybe rare earths are used in some Li-ion batteries somewhere, I don't even know. It's not that common. I suspect it's just confusion caused by rare earths being associated with electric motors, and therefore electric cars, and therefore batteries. It's NiMH batteries that contain lanthanum and stuff, but nobody is selling battery EVs that use those.
posted by sfenders at 6:41 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


It's NiMH batteries that contain lanthanum and stuff, but nobody is selling battery EVs that use those.

The Toyota Prius and Highlander, Lexus RX400h, Ford Escape Hybrid, Honda Insight, and Saturn Vue all use NiMH batteries. According to wikipedia, a typical hybrid automobile battery for a Toyota Prius requires 10 to 15 kg (22-33 lb) of lanthanum.
posted by bradf at 7:15 PM on June 12


I think you'll find that the "plug-in hybrid" versions of all those cars, where they exist, use lithium batteries. Those that can't be plugged in to charge are 100% powered by gasoline, not even close to the level of EV-ness that would make them best described as electric vehicles.
posted by sfenders at 7:29 PM on June 12


You are correct -- there are no (current production) EVs with NiMH batteries. The cars I listed are hybrids with NiMH batteries.
posted by bradf at 7:48 PM on June 12


As far as press releases

It's not a press release. Many science journalists confuse lithium as a rare earth material. A journalism error is not a good reason to be "skeptical" of the battery, but your choice. There are of course many other sources available. Like Forbes.

Anyway looks like Elon Musk has responded to it.
posted by stbalbach at 7:49 PM on June 12


It's not a press release.

That is true. I'm not entirely sure what it is though. I did check out the Power Japan Plus website as well, and there is not much there, little more than you'd expect in a single press release. Taking a closer look now, it looks pretty bad. It says things like "the battery is energy dense and could enable a 300-mile range electric vehicle", without making any specific claims about exactly how energy-dense it might be. Funny that they don't have more precise data considering how close it is to being ready for mass production, but I guess it's all trade secrets. There are some pretty pictures, a couple of potentially misleading charts that look out-of-place on the otherwise data-free page, some vague claims about how great it all is. And of course the cheesy video. There's one strangely precise number: "The company owns a battery production facility in Okinawa, Japan, where it will begin bench production testing of 18650 Ryden cells later this year." Okay, then. It's all in English for some reason, there is no link to a Japanese version of the site. Oh, and they claim to have discovered a "new form of carbon" which is "the world's first and only organic carbon material." Maybe it is just bad translation from Japanese... but then why no Japanese website again? And there is a spurious reference to "rare earth materials" because why not. Seriously, just look at the "Carbon Complex" page; it is the one that's most obviously nonsense.

I'm not saying it's necessarily an outright scam or hoax, although the presentation does superficially share a lot of things in common with those. Maybe they've really got a billion-dollar idea (or three) and just haven't gotten around making a proper website yet. I wouldn't bet on it.
posted by sfenders at 8:43 PM on June 12


What does using their technology not in "good faith" look like?

This is pure speculation, but: Suppose someone tried to sell aftermarket equipment for Tesla cars and insinuated they had a relationship with Tesla when none existed (e.g. using Tesla's logo or suggesting the products were approved by Tesla). If that equipment was covered by a patent owned by Tesla, then Tesla might add patent infringement claims to its lawsuit, arguing that the technology had not been used in good faith but rather as part of a larger illegal scheme.
posted by jedicus at 8:49 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


Another possibility: Suppose a bunch of Tesla's competitors decide to adopt Tesla's patented technologies but then violate the antitrust laws by colluding in order to shut Tesla out of the market made possible by that very technology. Tesla could say that is not a good faith use of the technology.
posted by jedicus at 8:55 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


"Revolutionary" new battery technologies are announced to great fanfare then disappear without a trace every few years. They're the electric car version of the carburetor that can burn water. That's not to say there are no real technology advances to be made, but there are equally lots of people willing to fleece credulous investors.
posted by bonehead at 9:30 PM on June 12


Very cute. Use patent protection to establish lead in market; then publicly renounce any further patent prosecution in order to garner good PR. It's quite unlikely that anyone will challenge Tesla using only these patents, as they have made a very secure market niche for themselves using the patents up to this point. They must feel very secure in their position. It's a clever move, but don't mistake it for altruism.
posted by Existential Dread at 10:20 PM on June 12


I thought gyroscopes spinning in vacuums on magnetic bearings were the future of energy storage? I had it on good authority, with four-color printing and everything.
posted by maxwelton at 10:26 PM on June 12


I wouldn't bet on it.

gm-volt website has a lot more good info.
posted by stbalbach at 11:11 PM on June 12


They must feel very secure in their position. It's a clever move, but don't mistake it for altruism.

It's certainly not altruism -- they'll benefit from an ecosystem of companies making and using their batteries. All the same, it's good for everyone in the car industry, and everyone that wants to buy an electric car. Business (and life) is not always a zero-sum game.
posted by empath at 12:03 AM on June 13



"Revolutionary" new battery technologies are announced to great fanfare then disappear without a trace every few years.


Several times a month. :)

But battery prices have been falling for years while energy density is increasing. So I assume that the benefits of R&D advances are steadily making their way into the marketplace, and that R&D press releases are focused on fanciful theoretical potentials of the advance, to ensure funding.
If the gigafactory is to be anything like the Tesla factory, it may be able to retool to take advantage of new technologies more rapidly than might be assumed.
posted by anonymisc at 12:20 AM on June 13 [1 favorite]


there are no (current production) EVs with NiMH batteries. The cars I listed are hybrids with NiMH batteries.

Fun battery factoid: Li-ion batteries have higher energy density than NiMH batteries, and NiMH batteries have higher energy-density than Li-ion batteries. :-)
(Which one has the higher enegery density depends on whether you are measuring energy-density by mass or by volume.)
But that's probably not relevant here. I assume Hybrids use NiMH because they're cheap and robust - a hybrid battery is small compared to an EV's, so the higher mass isn't a problem.
posted by anonymisc at 12:31 AM on June 13


and for the last few years, it's been doing exactly that at quite a fair clip.

This is not true to the best of my knowledge - prices have fallen very little over a long period of time. This is not to imply they will never fall quickly and by a decent margin, but I would need to see some compelling info to suggest it's happening now. I have a keen interest in hybrid and off-grid systems and whilst solar panels are getting cheaper with every breath, batteries - lead-acid, lifepo, li-ion, any of em - have remained remarkably, frustratingly, pricey.
posted by smoke at 4:18 AM on June 13


I just bought a CMax Energi last week (which I love) - I'll be out of it in 3 years and just in time to buy what ever Mr. Musk has wrought (in a good way) with this release.

Also, Matthew Inman on yesterday's announcement: "I can now add "it's an open source car" to the list of reasons for wanting to slow-bone my Electric CruiseBeast."
posted by Sophie1 at 7:11 AM on June 13


gm-volt website has a lot more good info.

Wow, they open with a mention of EEStor. I am amused to see that Zenn Motor Company stock is still trading.

Although there is no mention of anything like dual-carbon batteries on the Kyushu University Ishihara Lab web page or on his personal page there, I did find this abstract with the name Ishihara at the top, which looks as if it's legit. So if he really is researching this sort of thing, why is the Power Japan Plus web page filled with so much transparent pseudo-science bullshit that looks so little like said research? Maybe it's a case of some scam artist making the effort to find a respectable scientist they can take advantage of? Potential investors who sign a non-disclosure agreement get something with lots of the right keywords in it to look at, actual scientist is just happy that some corporation he knows little about wants to use his nifty new battery tech? Who knows. Anyway, "dual graphite" and "dual ion" are the phrases to search for, not "dual carbon", if you want to see what's up in that general area of lithium cell chemistry.

I'd rather direct all my naive enthusiasm for potential new tech at Phinergy, which both promises more and looks marginally less sketchy.
posted by sfenders at 8:56 AM on June 13


brenton : Have you ever driven 200 miles in one go? I don't know about you, but I need to stop after about five hours.

(divides 200 miles by 5 hours... looks askance at Gramps Brenton)
posted by IAmBroom at 10:33 AM on June 13 [2 favorites]


If we assume for a minute that he is actually serious about his stated goals then this is a good next step (given the reactions of other large automakers). Will it directly profit them? No, but indirectly it will by helping to drive the switch from fossil fuels.
posted by twidget at 12:18 PM on June 13


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