Gift to the world or trade bait? Tesla Motors announced this week it would open its patents for other automakers to use. That has analysts guessing whether the California-based electric-vehicle maker is looking to either swap trade secrets with other automakers or to expand the proverbial pie that represents the plug-in vehicle market. For its part, Tesla says the answer is B.

BMW, which is establishing its i sub-brand of plug-in vehicles, would be a natural collaborator with Tesla, Forbes says. In fact, executives from the two companies met in Europe this week. Details were not released, but a BMW spokesman said, "Both companies are strongly committed to the success of electromobility and discussed how to further strengthen the development of electromobility on an international level."

While Tesla brings battery technology to the table, BMW offers its carbon-fiber advancements that lighten vehicle-body weight. Those advancements are key to range-extending efforts and could do wonders for Tesla on its journey to help spur technology for the sake of getting more of the general public to accept plug-in technology as a viable first-car option. Then again, Forbes says Tesla, whose investors include Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler and Toyota, may be keeping its best technologies to itself by not patenting certain advancements at all.

What's in Tesla's patent pool? uAutoInsurance analyzed Tesla's 249 patents and found that 104 of them related to battery technology, while 28 pertained to recharging activity, which wasn't surprising (about a quarter of those 249 patents couldn't readily be categorized). Tesla also has nine patents related to sunroof technology. The company is based in California, after all.


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  • 27 Comments
      Technoir
      • 1 Year Ago
      How much weight could the Model S shed by switching to Carbon Fiber body panels?
        Nick Kordich
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Technoir
        I don't have an estimate, except to say "probably not as much as you'd expect" - the car already has all-aluminum body panels, so you're not saving nearly what you would be in switching out steel. Tesla's production is heavily aluminum focused, as driving down cost is a higher priority than shaving off a couple of pounds. That's not just to improve the Model S and X margins, but to make the Model E feasible. Aluminum is going to give them more bang for the buck than CF and, more to the point, it scales better in terms of rate of production - you stamp aluminum and move on, while CF has to cure. Eventually, Tesla will return to the Roadster, but the last I'd heard was that will be after the Model E. I could see Tesla putting a carbon fiber skin on that or on a Tesla supercar (which Musk has also said he would like to do), but CF's takes a lot of time and labor, which doesn't fit their business model for scaling up production on the S, X and E. I wouldn't rule out Tesla producing a top of the line Model S Performance Plus premium body package that's reskinned in carbon fiber but, if they do, I think the point would be less about actual weight savings and more about Tesla giving customers who are eager to give them more money a more exclusive option now that the Signature editions are history. The bottom line is that I expect their focus to remain on aluminum, and carbon fiber isn't going to be a priority for them. Where they use them in the near future, it's likely to be cosmetic or as accessories, such as trim work and spoilers, as with the Model S Performance.
          Nick Kordich
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Nick Kordich
          On the topic of weight savings, I could see Tesla trimming the Model S weight by literally shaving off pounds - it's built like a tank, which implies there are weight savings to be had in merely making it very safe. There are other aluminum alloys offering better strength-to-weight ratios, but are more expensive or difficult to machine. Some of the savings may come from components that they obtain from suppliers, rather than in-house work. I could see them pushing for alternatives to current windshield glass, which could be a drop-in option for them. Polycarbonate isn't an option for front and side windows due to safety regulations - safety glass lets first responders shatter glass to pull people out. I could see the company seeking to update the law, as they were doing with the elimination of the side mirrors featured on the Model X prototype. They can replace the 12V battery with a lighter unit. Lighter seats are also one of the ways manufacturers are looking at reducing weight. With the Model S, however, big weight savings have to come from the battery. They might be able to cut a few pounds off the container and electronics, but the big savings will come in time with new cells.
          Technoir
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Nick Kordich
          Thanks for the information. It appears that there isn't that much to gain by switching from alu to cf.
          Spec
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Nick Kordich
          Well the BMW material is not conventional Carbon Fiber . . . it is Carbon reinforced plastic. I believe the advantage of it is that it is lightweight AND low-cost.
      Ian
      • 1 Year Ago
      It's this kind of skepticism that signals our need for change. Elon's way ahead of the game, trust me.
      Rotation
      • 1 Year Ago
      Trade bait.
      Jesse Gurr
      • 1 Year Ago
      Was it Tesla made carbon fiber or Lotus made. I thought they got the completed shell from Lotus. Did they change it that much to put more carbon fiber?
      EVSUPERHERO
      • 1 Year Ago
      Tesla: "Howdy BMW, you guys going to build a 200 mile range EV and utilize our SC network? BMW: "Well, ahh..." "We don't want our ICEV's to face that much competition from our own band at this point in time"
      thecommentator2013
      • 1 Year Ago
      Musk doesn't just want to build EVs, he wants to change the whole industry. He's on track.
      bluepongo1
      • 1 Year Ago
      It means all other companies will spin excuses so they won't have to stop playing the compliance / Gov. R&D welfare / emissions / MPG game, that is all it means.
        bluepongo1
        • 1 Year Ago
        @bluepongo1
        BTW ... The Tesla Roadsters were available with carbon fiber ( especially the R-variants.) , so BMW brings nothing to the table in the author's scenario.
          bluepongo1
          • 1 Year Ago
          @bluepongo1
          @ Jesse Gurr... Lotus started that rumor, they had nothing to do with Roadster production. The G- variant was the first production run, it has rear-view cameras due to a different cowl on the rear-end and more luxury standard ( entertainment package, induction charging pad , etc. ) . Word of mouth created the R-variant soon after, it is much lighter than the G. The next run was the B- variant which is a comprimise between the G&R. That's when Elon Musk became CEO and the Govermedia wrote it's own narrative and Lotus & all the other B.S. started.
      jthomas35712
      • 1 Year Ago
      I hope that some Chinese electric car companies jump all over Tesla's technology and start cranking out 100,000+ cars in Asia. Let's face it, the Chinese are pretty good at copying American technology and then figuring out ways to make it cheaper. I bet the Chinese can built some high quality cars these days. Who knows, maybe if these Chinese cars advertise "Tesla Battery Inside" like PCs used to advertise "Intel Inside" they might sell good all over the world. Tesla is getting to be like Apple ... a prestige brand. People associate Tesla with high quality and innovation ... products with well thought out design, etc. Tesla has the independent reviews from car magazines like Motor Trend and Consumer Reports to prove it. Tesla just needs to make sure they KEEP that reputation and continue to get good reviews as they design new vehicles. They should insist that car companies that use their technology try very hard to build award winning cars too.
      lad
      • 1 Year Ago
      If I owned a car company, I wouldn't like the idea of two other companies, especially Tesla and BMW, sharing IP without including my company. I think Musk has it right; we all stand to gain greatly by cleaning up the air by driving EVs. Hopefully the idea of sharing IP will jumpstart the other car companies to spend money on innovation and engineering instead of making no-value added, middleman, Lawyers rich over IP patent suits.
      • 1 Year Ago
      Tesla invented Alternating Current! George Westinghouse said he would go broke with all the payouts for Teslas Patents! Tesla TORE ALL OF THEM UP IN WESTINGHOUSES FACE! HE GOT RICH AS THE NIAGARA RIVER PROJECT WAS BEING BUILT WESTINGHOUSE WAS STEALING HIS OTHER IDEA OF THE ELECTRIC MOTOR! THUS MAKING THE APPLIANCES! TESLA DIED PENNILESS IN A ROOMING HOUSE WHILE WESTINGHOUSE LET HIM DIE! TESLA WAS THE SMARTEST MAN ON EARTH OVER 100 YEARS AGO BUT HIS IDEAS WERE MORE IMPORTANT TO THE USA AND NOW THESE CLOWNS ARE EXPLOITING HIS NAME! LET THE MAN REST IN PEACE! HE INVENTED THE WORLDS ELECTRICAL GRID AND SO MANY MEN & WOMEN WORKED TO MAKE HIS SYSTEM BEAT OUT EDISONS DC VOLTAGE AND THE WORLD WORKS OFF TESLAS AC VOLTAGE! I OWN A SMALL TESLA GENERATOR THAT HE BUILT AND IT'S OVER 100 YEARS OLD BUT STILL WORKS! ALL THE JOBS HAVE GONE TO LOW PAID LABOR & EVEN I AM GUILTY OF BUYING THINGS MADE IN CHINA BECAUSE THEY DON'T MAKE THEM HERE ANYMORE! I CHANGED YEARS AGO AND WOULD RATHER PAY MORE FOR A BATTERY MADE IN THE USA! ANOTHER THING CHINA IS DOING AND THIS IS BUYING UP ALL THE GOLD THEY CAN GET! WHY DO YOU THINK THE ECONOMY HAS BEEN PAYING MORE AND MORE FOR EVERYTHING? KEEP BUYING CHINESE GOODS AND YOU ARE A COMMUNIST TOO! A TOUGH NUT TO CRACK WHEN YOU HAVE TO EAT SO SOMETIMES WE ARE FORCED TO BUY COMMUNIST GOODS! EVEN HARLEY GEAR IS MADE IN CHINA! NOW THAT IS ABOUT 1 OF THE SADDEST COMPANIES BECAUSE THEY USE TO BE ALL USA! TESLA WAS A MAN WITH A VISION WHO MADE THINGS WORK BETTER! NOW THESE PEOPLE NAME THEIR CAR THE TESLA WHEN IT HASN'T ANYTHING TO DO WITH THE MANS WORK! EDISON USED DC POWER AND EVEN WIRED MORGANS HOME! BUT IN THE END EDISON KILLED OFF HIS PLAN BECAUSE THE NIAGARA RIVER PROJECT WENT TO WESTINGHOUSE AND TESLA! DO THE RESEARCH ABOUT MY COUNTRIES HISTORY! ROCKETFELLER WAS AND STILL WOULD BE TODAY THE RICHEST MAN ON EARTH BECAUSE OF OIL! THE USA HAS OIL STOCK PILED FOR OVER 50 YEARS BECAUSE UNTIL SOLAR CAN BE TAPPED AT A COST THAT CAN BE AFFORDABLE! NOW OBAMA IS SENDING IN TROOPS BACK INTO IRAQ BECAUSE WE LOST THAT WAR IN SO MANY WAYS BUT THE USA ARE THE POLICE OF THE WORLD! OPEN THE PATENTS, THEY HAVE BEEN OPEN BECAUSE AN ELECTRIC MOTOR AND BATTERIES HAVE BEEN OPEN PATENTS FOR YEARS! THESE PEOPLE DON'T HAVE ANYTHING NEW BECAUSE THEY ALREADY LEARNED AS I HAVE THESE PATENTS HAVE BEEN EXPIRED FOR YEARS! THEY SUCK IN THE PEOPLE WHO DON'T KNOW HOW LONG A PATENT LASTS! WHAT TYPES OF PATENTS THERE ARE! WHEN YOU LEARN THEY ONLY LAST FOR 20 YEARS AND SHORTER YOU WILL ALSO LEARN TESLA AND EDISON ALREADY KNEW THESE THINGS OVER A CENTURY AGO! THEY ARE GIVING UP NOTHING THAT HAS ALREADY BEEN EXPIRED! BUY AMERICAN! BE AN AMERICAN! FIGHT FOR AMERICA! WAKE UP YOU ARE IN AMERICA!
      RyanC
      • 1 Year Ago
      "Then again, Forbes says Tesla, whose investors include Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler and Toyota, may be keeping its best technologies to itself by not patenting certain advancements at all." -- this. If you read in between the lines, this is exactly what Musk is saying. At the surface you have him giving away all of their patented information to anyone willing to use it. Deep below, you can easily see that he is more focused on leading the bleeding edge of EV technology, and blazing forward without wasting any time / effort to hold onto ideas of things that he has no interest in maintaining the status quo on. Tesla is a company that is pulling no punches and hyper focused on rewriting the book on automobiles, while burning all the old volumes that the old dinosaur companies so desperately cling to.
      • 1 Year Ago
      WHO EVER BUYS CHINAS GOODS ARE ALSO COMMUNISTS! THE USA SHOULD NEVER ALLOW THESE GOODS INTO OUR COUNTRY NO MATTER WHAT THE OUTCOME AND WE ALL KNOW WHAT THAT WOULD BE! EVERYONE WOULD BE WORKING AT A UNION WAGE AND THIS COUNTRY WOULD HAVE THE DIGNITY IT HAS LOST WHILE OPENING THE BOUNDARIES ALLOWING ANYONE TO JUST WALK INTO AMERICA! NOW YOU IDIOTS HAVE LET THIS ISSUE GO FOR SO LONG THESE PEOPLE THINK THEY CAN JUST STAY HERE TAKING JOBS, COMMITTING CRIMES, AND GETTING WELFARE! SEND EVERYONE BACK WHO DIDN'T CROSS INTO THIS COUNTRY THE RIGHT WAY AND THE PARENTS OF THE BABY OR BABES ALSO GO BACK WITH THEIR PARENTS! YOU JUST DON'T ALLOW ANYONE INTO AMERICA BECAUSE THEIR COUNTRY IS IN SHAMBLES! KICK THEM OUT BABIES AND ALL! BRING THE RESPECT BACK TO OUR CONSTITUTION AND OUR BILL OF RIGHTS! DO IT NOW BEFORE ANOTHER IDIOT KILLS ANYONE OF OUR CITIZENS!
        ScubaChris
        • 1 Year Ago
        That was a very passionate and xenophobic rant but what the hell has it got to do with Tesla's open patents deal?
          purrpullberra
          • 1 Year Ago
          @ScubaChris
          geminiiipros: Dude, I tried reading but my eyes got tired from being SCREAMED at. Tesla, the man, was cool. China, bad. Got that at least and you are right on that. Then it sounds like a mental breakdown.
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