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Musk Will Open Up Tesla Supercharger Patents To Spur Development 230

Posted by samzenpus
from the here-you-go dept.
redletterdave (2493036) writes "Elon Musk has said repeatedly he wants to 'do something controversial' with Tesla's collection of electric car patents, but he finally offered specifics at the UK launch of his Tesla Model S on Sunday. The Tesla Motors CEO said he would like to open up the designs for his Supercharger systems — the free fast-charging stations designed to quickly refuel Tesla's electric cars — to create a standard for other car makers to use. Musk previously said he didn't want Superchargers to become a 'walled garden.'"
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Musk Will Open Up Tesla Supercharger Patents To Spur Development

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  • by c0d3g33k (102699) on Monday June 09, 2014 @02:13PM (#47196593)

    ... a very smart man.

    • ... a very smart man.

      It doesn't take a smart man to realize preventing others from building the only devices capable of charging your car is dumb. Imagine if GM held the patent to the gasoline pump and tried to charge people for building alternative pumps.

      • by BitZtream (692029)

        You act as though that wasn't tried ... or using 'special formulas' of fuel to tie them into your fuel supply ... or even today, car makers still try to use 'special oil blends' that are required for their car ... even though they aren't, by law.

    • Let's wait until he stops saying he'd "like" to open up his designs and "may" do something revolutionary with his patents and actually opens them up and/or does something revolutionary. Then we can judge how smart he is, because as it is all he's good at (on this topic, and so many others) is making provocative click-bait statements and watching the free publicity come rolling in.

      Seriously, the Musk personality [slashdot.org] cult [slashdot.org] (three article devoid of substantive content in as many days) here on Slashdot is reaching

  • Sooner the better, last thing we need is every car manufacturer making their own version of a charger like has happened with phones and portable gadgets.

    Perhaps legislation would be the best option - one type of charger technology that is unencumbered by patents or copyrights or anything, so everyone can use it and you can find a charging station that will work with your car, even if it was built by Apple.

    • This is one place where legislated standards would be a really bad idea. The charging process is one that benefits from every innovation that makes it a quicker or cheaper process. Companies should be allowed to change as they see fit.

      Save legislated standards for situations where there is no innovation, only protectionism going on.

    • Car charging vs your little cell phone isn't really an apt analogy.

      Your cell phone charger almost always has an option where you can plug it into the standard wall socket, most have an option to plug in a standard USB port. What you are bitching about is the other end of the plug that goes into the cell phone. Now the phone may have different features that will need a special plug, (Unless you really want a data plug(s) (Digital and Analog mix?) and a power plug)

      The automotive charger is like standardizin

    • by Firethorn (177587)

      Perhaps legislation would be the best option"

      That would most likely end up with an ugly solution being pushed on us. For example, mandating the USB standard does reduce the number of cables, up to the point Apple wants to release it's iPad sized iPhone.

      Current open standards for EV charging stations max out at 60kW, half of what Tesla's superchargers put out. Less than half given that Tesla is actually looking to increase power even more. Even the 'next update' standards only up that to 90kW for J1772. [wikipedia.org]

      Tesla is being a bit like apple here, but it's

  • Elon Musk wants more quick refuel infrastructure on the interstates and local roads/cities, which will advance Tesla's and others electric cars. This is not controversial but does provide probable wider support for Tesla's collection of electric car products, patents, and parts. Open up the designs for Tesla Supercharger systems — the free fast-charging stations designed to quickly refuel electric cars — creating an ISO/OASIS standard for other car makers to use makes prescient business sense.

    • by amiga3D (567632)

      He could most likely see the danger of Ford/Chevy/Nissan/Toyota and all the other big boys getting together to design their own and then charging fees to the small companies like Tesla to use it too. I'm surprised no one has jumped to lock out the small fry yet.

      • by ganjadude (952775)
        look at all the states where the dealer network is doing everything they can to kill tesla off by not allowing them to even sell their cars in those states. They did the same thing to Studebaker and a lesser extent delorean.

        they dont want any more competition simple as that
      • by Firethorn (177587)

        I'm surprised no one has jumped to lock out the small fry yet.

        Chademo and J1772 are apparently in quite the fight right now, while Tesla forges ahead with it's superior propriatory solution.

        The problem with 'locking out the small fry' is that:
        1. There's effectively no small fry around yet
        2. The base is too fragile as of yet to seriously try it. Right now it's more profitable to share stations.

  • What a great idea! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bennomatic (691188) on Monday June 09, 2014 @02:20PM (#47196651) Homepage
    1. Build an electric car that's heads and shoulders above the competition.
    2. Build an innovative charging infrastructure to allow for long distance driving.
    3. Open up the technology for that charging infrastructure so that gas stations and the like can start getting in on the action and making some profit.
    4. With charging infrastructure becoming ubiquitous, that takes away many people's concerns about buying your car.
    5. Also, with charging infrastructure becoming ubiquitous, that may encourage other auto manufacturers to move past compliance cars and actually start selling quality vehicles.
    6. Tout competition's success as your own success, as it's built on your platform. Competition isn't only good PR in this context, but it carries with it the subtext that electric cars are a product category that is here to stay.

    To some degree, I still like the idea of plug-in hybrids for the time being. But if this "open supercharger" thing is as successful as I think it's going to be, there could be a sea change in the consumer automotive market.
    • Plug-in diesel hybrids would probably be better, especially with an all-electric drive train.

      An all-electric drive train allows a light diesel engine to run in its most efficient operating range continuously, under variable load. The engine could be a single-piston diesel pegged to 200RPM, getting more fuel when the battery charge is below 85% and when there is current draw by the motor.. The increased load (by charging or supplying power) would require more torque output for the engine to maintain 200

      • by dkf (304284)

        This setup allows for plug-in charging, as well as high density fuel usage.

        At a cost of quite a lot of complexity and weight. That might be justifiable, but it sure isn't free.

    • > To some degree, I still like the idea of plug-in hybrids for the time being

      Especially when the hybrid is this:

      http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/electric-car-with-massive-range-in-demo-by-phinergy-alcoa-1.2664653

      Take a Tesla S. Remove 2/3rds of the li-ion. Add one of these. Car loses 500 lbs. One-way range increases to ~1600 km. Refuelling for short trips is about 5 minutes. Longer ones takes a swap, just like now.

  • by necro81 (917438) on Monday June 09, 2014 @02:22PM (#47196673) Journal
    This should be interesting, and should spur some development,

    but...

    I doubt that you could use a Tesla-like Supercharger to charge a battery other than one made by Tesla. I'm not talking about DRM, I'm talking about the architecture of the battery pack itself - its charging characteristics, its safety features, its cooling system, and so on down to the level of the individual 18650 cells. Those aspects are still heavily protected - licensing and manufacturing the packs and powertrain is a side business for Tesla. So what looks like a move to open up the world could, like other standards, become a way to lock in a particular proprietary design.

    I still think it's pretty cool, though. If it sheds more light on how Tesla has designed and constructed their pack, which is a fine technology, as well as directly showing ways to charge Li-Ion packs quickly, then I think this is a benefit to anyone interested in how electricity is used and stored (i.e., everyone). But I also like to keep in mind that Musk, for all his altruism, is still a capitalist and wants his vision of the future to be the one to succeed.
    • You supply voltage and heavy-gauge wire. The car decides what to do with that.

      Electricity isn't a networking standard; it's part of the laws of physics.

      • by necro81 (917438)

        Electricity isn't a networking standard; it's part of the laws of physics.

        Actually, battery chargers are kinda like networking standards. Yes, you have voltage and heavy gauge wire, but you also have two-way communication between the pack and the charger. Most of that is contained within the car itself, but it extends to external charge sources, too. Have a look at the SAE charging standard for EVs [wikipedia.org]. Tesla does not adhere to this standard, either for its connector or communications, which I will guess

    • by ehud42 (314607)

      I doubt that you could use a Tesla-like Supercharger to charge a battery other than one made by Tesla. I'm not talking about DRM, I'm talking about the architecture of the battery pack itself - its charging characteristics, its safety features, its cooling system, and so on down to the level of the individual 18650 cells.

      Disclaimer: I know nothing about the Tesla Supercharger.

      But I do know generally how chargers work - specifically multi-cell lithium chargers. Each cell requires a charge management circuit. I don't think the Supercharger actively manages the cell level charging. It is highly unlikely that given 10s or 100s of cells in a Tesla pack that there is going to be anything other than voltage, current and maybe a serial data line for that can be used for metering and financial charging.

      As long as my car can handle t

    • All you have to do on the charging side is supply power in a certain standard way (AC vs. DC, high voltage vs. high current) and let the car decide how much current to pull. A standard interface between charger and battery controller is also important, otherwise there's a need to drop down to lowest common denominator charging (kinda like incompatible USB charging standards).

    • by AaronW (33736) on Monday June 09, 2014 @05:13PM (#47198173) Homepage

      Tesla's superchargers use the same signalling standard as the J1772 combo plug. The car tells the charger what voltage and current to put into the battery so the charger is not tied to any one type of battery.

  • It's a nice gesture but AFAIK none of the other currently available designs can handle the amount of current that supercharger provides. Perhaps in 3-5 years when the other auto companies revamp their existing lineup with new designs they might decide to design around the supercharger 'standard' but I'm not holding my breath.

    • Re:nice gesture (Score:4, Insightful)

      by BasilBrush (643681) on Monday June 09, 2014 @02:51PM (#47196899)

      There's two sides to it. Other cars that can recharge from Tesla supercharger, and third party charging stations that can supercharge Tesla cars. Both are good for Musk's company.

  • by Irate Engineer (2814313) on Monday June 09, 2014 @02:38PM (#47196793)

    Electric cars are not ubiquitous because range and ability to charge is a concern. Charging stations are not ubiquitous because electric cars are not ubiquitous.

    Gasoline automobiles were able to take off when they were invented because the liquid fuel infrastructure was in largely in place prior to their invention. Kerosene for lamps was distributed by metered pumps that were easily converted to dispense gasoline.

    Establishing a standard charging station would allow companies to make the investment in charging infrastructure, confident that it would be widely applicable to different vehicles and would not disappear overnight. When you can pull into the CircleK and purchase a few kWh of juice while grabbing a burrito, that's when electric cars will really take off.

    • by Lumpy (12016)

      Incorrect. the Model S has the range that will satisfy 99% of drivers. The problem is that it's ungodly expensive.

      • by dbc (135354)

        Well, range is still a concern. I drove to a convention where two Tesla-owning friends also went. I lisented to their discussion about how to manage the range issue of driving to a place that is just beyond a single charge, how they had to plan their recharging stop, how it limited their choices for a lunch break. None of us gasoliine vehicle drivers had that discussion. So it is still not only a concern, they find range interesting dinner conversation. Range is getting better, surely, but stll is abov

        • by Aighearach (97333)

          Lots of people with ICE cars talk about where to buy gas, and which place is least out of the way, and which place is close to somewhere good for lunch.

          At conventions probably a lot of people are expensing their gas though, so they wouldn't talk about it even if they normally do, because they'd just stop at the place that is convenient to the freeway and 50 cents higher.

          If you look at a map of charging stations, cities that have both charging stations and are big enough to have a convention center usually h

          • by dbc (135354)

            The issue was not charging stations at either end, it was the dearth in between. You can go ahead and pretend that charging stations are as ubiquitous as gas stations, but they are not. In some places, like my neighborhood, they are more than sufficient. Out of town, not so much. Anyway, go ahead and believe what you want -- I gave you two data points. You gave me zero, and some arm waving. I am *not* anti electric car, we're shopping for a Leaf, and two neighbors have Leafs. This is a great town in

        • by ganjadude (952775)
          interesting, so we could see new towns/ infrastructure built around electric car range?
      • So were ICE cars to start with. It took 50 years or so before they become affordable by average people. It's not going to take as long this time.

    • by Firethorn (177587)

      When you can pull into the CircleK and purchase a few kWh of juice while grabbing a burrito, that's when electric cars will really take off.

      Given the ability to charge at home, without even needing to visit the CircleK, as well as the large numbers of absolutely free charging stations, I'd say that EVs will take off when the average price drops enough to avoid sticker shock* while and battery capacity(buffered by high speed charging/battery swaps) climbs enough to overcome range anxiety. The Nissan Leaf isn't high enough ranged to avoid range anxiety, and the Model S still gives sticker shock.

      That being said, visits to 'convenience' stores are

    • Gasoline automobiles were able to take off when they were invented because the liquid fuel infrastructure was in largely in place prior to their invention. Kerosene for lamps was distributed by metered pumps that were easily converted to dispense gasoline.

      Electricity for lamps is distributed by metered circuits that can easily be converted to dispense the correct voltage and amperage that a supercharger needs. The problem here is the inertia and lethargy from 100 years worth of gasoline powered cars. Both the chicken and the egg already exist.

  • Tesla == ARM (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tekrat (242117) on Monday June 09, 2014 @02:40PM (#47196801) Homepage Journal

    Tesla isn't just a car company, they are a technology firm. The *real* value of Tesla (hence the stock price) is in the technology they own and control.

    If Teslas chargers become "the standard", then the rest of the world will likely have to license Tesla's other technology to be compatible. This is akin to; anyone can build an ARM-based chip, but you have to license that right from the ARM group, which makes their stock (currently) more valuable then Intels.

    Tesla running gear may also become the defacto standard for electric cars, and once the price drops, near unbiquitous -- which will make Musk extremely wealthy. Tesla won't have to make cars anymore, simply license the tech to everyone else to build.

    They then can pour that money into more R&D and build even better and better running gear which in turn, all other manufacturers will need to license to keep up with the competition.... Which of course, will keep them very wealthy.

    • It's not that I don't agree with your general point, but the ARM vs. Intel example is absurd.

      The price of an individual share is meaningless (unless it's 0). ARM's stock price might be more than 30 times higher than Intel's, but Intel is still worth more than 10 times more than ARM.

  • Holy cow! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Lumpy (12016) on Monday June 09, 2014 @02:41PM (#47196809) Homepage

    "It was also the only car to ever receive a 99 out of 10 from Consumer Reports"

    The Mode S is so good that it broke the scale by a factor of 10!

  • by Dega704 (1454673) on Monday June 09, 2014 @03:02PM (#47196995)
    This general attitude is why Tesla is such a disruptive force, and why the rest of the automotive market and their ilk hate them. I for one am happy to see the status quo get genuinely threatened for a change.
  • the free fast-charging stations designed to quickly refuel Tesla's electric cars

    Sure, if electrons are "fuel".

  • So Gingrich is wrong when he asserts that patents fuel innovation, in drugs for example.

  • While you're working on it, how about a new name? "Supercharger" is already a "thing" in automobile-lingo. And yes, I know most Slashdotters may not be gear-heads, using a name of a thing that already exists is glaring to those of us who are.

"No, no, I don't mind being called the smartest man in the world. I just wish it wasn't this one." -- Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias, WATCHMEN

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