Big 3 Not Interested In Tesla Patents


Tesla Patents

Tesla Patents

According to the Detroit News, Detroit’s Big Three seem to show little to no interest in those open-source Tesla patents.

“General Motors Co. said it hasn’t reached out to Tesla, while Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles didn’t comment directly on the matter.”

States the Detroit News.

While BMW, Nissan and even Mahindra-Reva seem to show at least some level of interest in Tesla’s patents, the Detroit Three don’t seem to care:

“Our sense is that companies like GM have been working on electric vehicles and have marketed them long before there was even a hint of Tesla being out there, and the same can be said for Ford and Chrysler.  These are giant companies that have giant research and development operations. I think they like what they do and generally think the technology they develop is top tech.”

That’s according to Jack Nerad, executive market analyst for

As we’ve detailed in the past, the value in Tesla’s patents most likely lie in Tesla’s charging patents (Supercharger) and coolant patents (battery coolant), as well as in some of Tesla user interface patents, especially those linked to the 17-inch touchscreen.  There’s likely no interest at all in Tesla’s (Panasonic’s) battery technology.

Edmunds‘ John O’Dell seems to agree with us:

“It’s unlikely the whole industry will shift and change to a Tesla-type battery.  Whatever value is there, I do not think it’s in their batteries.”

The value, some analysts say, may lie in Tesla’s charging stations. The California-based automaker in June opened its 100th Supercharger station for its electric Model S car. The stations can charge an electric car in about 20 minutes, about 16 times faster than other public stations.

The Detroit News acquired various comments from the Big Three.  Those comments are as follows:

Ford:  “We encourage the adoption of innovative technology across the industry.  We are the first and only automaker to have dedicated open-source hardware and software platforms, Smart Device Link and OpenXC.”

General Motors’ Kevin Kelly, manager of electrification communications:  “We have not talked to (Tesla) about the patents. We don’t have anybody looking at those right now. It’s not something that’s on the front burner for us to look at.  I think anything that can help to advance the adoption of electric vehicles is a positive.”

Chrysler: Declined to comment

Source: Detroit News

Categories: Chevrolet, Chrysler, Ford, Tesla

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64 Comments on "Big 3 Not Interested In Tesla Patents"

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I would sell either one my patent-pending idea , Air Induction Charging and Storage System for almost nothing just to build a electric car that can go 500 miles or more without stopping to charge.

This should be no surprise to anyone who understands the tesla offer. Tesla didn’t give the patents away, they said “we won’t sue you first.” As such, no serious company would knowingly infringe because that would prevent them from being able to litigate on other patent points. I’m pretty sure BMW is discussing a straight licensing deal, if anything.

That’s exactly right. It was clear to anyone who listened to the Tesla patent conference call in June.


If this is what the companies are afraid of, all they have to do is pick up a phone. If they want to use Tesla’s patents, I am sure they would sign some kind of an agreement with Tesla to make sure they won’t get sued.

Not just that, but the patents are very narrow and therefore don’t provide any value to any of the other car makers. There are several EVs that are currently being sold and these Tesla patents obviously are not blocking or in any way hindering these models. It’s not even like there is some “killer feature” that these patents are protecting. As much as I like Tesla, this was a marketing gimmick, at best.

That is ridiculous. You really can’t know that unless you’ve read through every single one of their patents and compared them to every single EV currently out there or under development.

Well he’s right. It was a marketing ploy.

It doesn’t help that the US patent system in its current state is broken. Most patents nowadays are no better than chicken scratches on a napkin. You used to have to demonstrate a working product or sufficient documentation proving you could make it before being granted a patent but changes made by the current administration has turned the US patent system into nothing more than patent trolling heaven.

And like he said, there’s no new tech or Earth shattering design going on with Tesla vehicles. If you pony up for the more expensive batteries, you get more range. Any other manufacturer could offer 200+ mi range EVs if they sourced the high density batteries. The trade off is cost.

I’m a patent attorney and I have looked at the claims on a number of their patents. I wasn’t impressed.

For example, look at their most recently issued patent, U.S. Pat. No. 8,778,519: Check out claim 1, their broadest claim, copied below. As long as a competitor does not perform at least one aspect recited in the claim, they don’t infringe. For example, instead of “the exhaust nozzle that passes through the hole being captured by a nut inside the sealed battery pack enclosure,” maybe the nozzle is simply threaded into the battery pack without a nut or with some other mechanical device. Just about all of their patent claims are this narrow and therefore incredibly easy to design around. 1. A battery pack thermal management system, comprising: a sealed battery pack enclosure configured to hold a plurality of batteries; and an exhaust nozzle assembly, wherein said exhaust nozzle assembly is comprised of: an exhaust nozzle made of a high temperature resistant material and mounted in a hole in an outer wall of said sealed battery pack enclosure with an end of the exhaust nozzle that passes through the hole being captured by a nut inside the sealed battery pack enclosure, wherein said exhaust nozzle is configured to pass and direct gas from within said sealed battery pack enclosure… Read more »

There’s really no way to know from the outside if any of the patents have hindered competitors (all it has to do is force them to use workarounds or less optimal ways of doing things; it’s rare patents will completely disable all attempts to build a certain product). However, we do know Tesla remains the pack energy density champ, and the patents may have to do with that.

The question is: were those patents donated to public domain or is Tesla offering them under an open source license? If the latter then using them by GM or other big car manufacturers could contaminate their patent portfolios. The loss would be bigger then any benefit.

Neither. Musk just said that he would not sue anyone who infringed on Tesla’s patents, as long as he thought people were using them “in good faith.”

But what is Musk, at some point in the future, is no longer with Tesla? Or what if he simply changes his mind one day?

Patent courts are staffed by human judges. Given that Musk has made his promise very conspicuously public, it would be difficult for Tesla to go after anyone for patent violations on anything Tesla had patented when Musk made his statements.

Patents are litigated under regular Federal courts. And yes, Elon’s Musk’s statements constitute a unilateral contract that others can enforce.

There is no contract. It could result in equitable estoppel but there is no way any reasonable CEO would risk litigation with potential hundreds of millions $ on a hope that this equitable doctrine will be employed by courts.

The only relevant know-how Tesla have is how to manage an dissipate the heat in a pack of 6.500 cylindrical batteries (18650 Panasonic type)
VW are using Panasonic batteries too, but cylindrical type, because the only advantage of using 18650 was its price/wh and this advantage have disappeared.
It’s the same with the other car manufacturers that’s the reason for the lack of interest in Tesla IP

I don’t think that’s correct, in terms of the price per kWh. My understanding is that Tesla’s advantage is exactly that: The advantage in price per kWh. That is the whole point. I mean, what else is there?

The pricing advantage may change some time in the future, but when? This is the big question.

Used to be.
At the moment prismatic and cilindrical cells are around 225 US$/KWH. Just two years ago the price for prismatic was to times than for cilindrical.
That was the reason Tesla choose the cilindrical and develop the system to manage that pack with more than 6500 cells

“At the moment prismatic and cilindrical cells are around 225 US$/KWH.”

What is the energy density in Wh/Kg of the prismatic cells you are referring to? I thought another part of the story was the failure rate and safety issues with large prismatic cells that had the same 250 Wh/Kg as the cells in the Model S.

Anton, it’s not clear if Tesla has a cost advantage. It definitely has a cost advantage on a per kWh basis at the cell level. But having to wire thousands of cells together and then having to develop the power electronics and cooling necessary for their care and feeding is not cheap. it may cost less to have fewer but larger cells.

You also have to factor in the warranty costs of repairing or replacing the battery packs if they fail. The failure rate with so many cells almost has to be much higher than with far fewer prismatic cells. Which is BTW why the major companies aren’t that keen on Tesla’s technology — the potential warranty costs scare them to death.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

it may cost less to have fewer but larger cells.

We’ll see if this is the case based on what the Gigafactory outputs. Presumably they’ve done the math with the assumption that their custom prismatic would have the same assembly cost as an 18650 as they’re eventually going to scale to match or exceed the current market in 18650s.

“The only relevant know-how Tesla have is …”
1) That is a ridiculously narrow statement.
2) This story is about patents not know-how.

I mean Panasonic is using Panasonic Prysmatic type. Sorry

I knew this would happen in that they have their own system of research and building.

Last July in Norway VW sold 391 E-Golf plus 282 E-Up all of them using Panasonic prismatic cells.
Tesla only sold 114 Model S (Norway have been the main market for Tesla out of US)
Its happening all over the world (even in US) those manufacturers using prismatic cells are selling more than Tesla at the moment.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

They’re also smaller and less expensive vehicles.

When there’s a prismatic-cell-battery vehicle with storage and performance characteristics of Tesla’s, I’ll care.

This prismatic and cilindrical are the cells.
You can make a battery pack as big as you want puting together a lot of them.

Fielding a medium range Electric Fueled Vehicle, Extended Range Electric Vehicle or PHEV is doable as cost effective and a profit point only with generationally developed and retained in house electromobility IP tech. Honda, Fiat/Chrysler, Hyundai(With the exception of partner, KIA/Soul BEV),Toyota and Subaru, do not possess such ready EV Tech. This is why Toyota launched CA compliance vehicle, Rav4, with a Tesla Motors EV Drivetrain and feilds an EPA Rated All Electric Range of 0-6 mile Plug In Prius, Fiat CEO,Sergio Marchionne asked you not to buy the Fiat 500e as they were loosing money on each one and Toyota, Honda and Hyundai are pulling California Taxpayer handouts approaching $200,000 in subsidies to develope H Fueling Stations in the Bear State. The old sage of the haves and the have nots. Elon Musk made a great point on “June 12, 2014 ‘All Our Patent Are Belong To You’ blog”, that the big OEM’s were not chasing the Global Electric Fueled Vehicle Industry. Well, for the most part, the haves are. BMW, Porsche, the Nissan/Renault Alliance, Mercedes, Ford, Mitsubishi, Audi, VW and of course, stubbornly GM. All bets are off though. The push for Global Electric Fueled Vehicle, Market Share… Read more »

Toyota used the Tesla pack in the RAV4ev because it would have been too expensive to develop a bespoke battery pack for such a limited run of vehicles.

Toyota could have easily gone to Sanyo or Panasonic, there’s a Panasonic plant in Toyota City. The rest of it is power handling systems and motors. Toshiba makes some of the very best motors in the world and Toyota’s new SiC power handling chips are the best in the world. Tesla has nothing that’s even close.

All of the OEMs you listed have previously built EVs and could again if there was any money in it.

BTY, despite all the hoopla, BMW and MB are FC focused.

Also while you complain about the hydrogen fueling subsidies are you forgetting about the $120 million NRG project?

Considering that there are already Chademo and SAE DC fast charge standards, why would a major manufacturer bother with Tesla’s proprietary standard? “We will not sue first” is not open source.

No Tesla rejected working with other corporations when it had the chance. It will continue on its own.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater


Better for Tesla to be unconstrained by “standards” that are inferior and inadequate for their purposes. Intercity EV charging really needs to be 250kW or higher for mass appeal, get 200mi of range in 15-20m of charging.

” why would a major manufacturer bother with Tesla’s proprietary standard”

Are you kidding?
1) Because Tesla has an extensive supercharger network already out there.
2) The superchargers charge more than twice as fast as the Chademo and CCS chargers that are out there.

Now they would certainly need to do a licensing deal to have their cars use the supercharger network, but if I were to enter the EV market right now, I’d seriously consider doing it. The only question is whether batteries will get cheap enough to make it worthwhile doing since you need big batteries to really take advantage of the supercharger system.

Except the real OEMs aren’t the least interested in the supercharger. Musk tried to get partners, no one bothered.

As for the supposed IP? What a joke. Every year 100s of EVs are made in garages through the world. Batteries, power electronics, a motor and a donor car.

Tesla has no special sauce, the platform isn’t very efficient and the batteries are just yestertech laptop batteries.

As for Tesla’s battery testing, they may have some rudimentary test equipment, but they don’t seem to use it. Witness the high failure rate in Tesla packs supplied to other OEMs.

A friend of mine is an auto industry financial/stock analyst of some sort. As he gets to meet the CFO’s and other high ranked people in the auto business, this roughly summarizes their view of electric vehicles: They can do what Tesla does in a heartbeat, there just is no demand for electric cars yet, so they don’t bother with it. And of course my friend agrees with them thinking Tesla is overvalued and that they won’t be able to sell half a million cars by 2020 etc etc.

If you don’t make a compelling car, there never will be a market. It’s a self fulfilling prophesy.

Electric Car Guest Drive


Not to mention you have to actually advertise and sell it skillfully.

Absolutely true. And Tesla is just getting started creating a compelling case for EVs that don’t require ANY form of converted hydrocarbons, to run. Most pople who own Teslas, never want an ICE again, and laugh at fool cells– their cars are that mind changing. Current automakers are freaking out behind closed doors over their success.

That CFO is following orders, and parroting a management line. I believe he’s right about their ability to substantially replicate Tesla, but the actual financial answer in his head is more like, “It would be foolish to make people want cars that are more expensive to build”. They could do both, but then that would be about the customer, and it would get in the way of their ologopolistic happy meal.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

Are those the same incestuous lot that drove GM and Chrysler into bankrupcy?

I’d take their advice with a few metric tons of salt.

1) They CAN’T do it in a ‘heartbeat’. They can do it . . . but it takes time.
2) They didn’t think there was a market for the Tesla and they were proven wrong.
3) It is difficult to make a profit on EVs and that is why most of them go bankrupt. Tesla is just at break-even and they sell a very high-priced luxury car.

The reality is that this market is in its infancy and they they are all watching closely and dipping their toes in. They know it is the future but they can only move slowly because the profits remain in ICE vehicles not EVs.

The overall semtiment is that all they have to do is city cars and for long distance travel, plug-ins are fine. But regarding Tesla, their reserch shows something like, Teslas are being bought mostly by Californians who pretty much have had all of the Porsches, M3’s and all those things and now they try this. This is just a phase supposedly and it will pass. They believe that Tesla will not do so well in China and Europe because people who whip out so much money for a car want it for show-off purposes so they’ll stick to the German premium brands. I think the Germans are here underestimating the Elon Musk factor. I believe the cult around him will around grow stronger, he will have more and more superdedicated customers. People love to connect with someone with a huge story behind him, so once he puts people to space, he’ll have so much publicity…

What ever happen to that secret GM team tasked with spying on Tesla? Hmmm….”We don’t have anybody looking at those right now. It’s not something that’s on the front burner for us to look at.”

I was wondering the same thing. Isn’t this the company that put together a “Tesla task-force”?

Good point, makes this much more interesting to think about.

I think they had wanted to keep an eye on what Tesla was doing at a macro level, and how their cars were being accepted.

The Tesla patents are really nothing special. Most pertain to battery tech, but based on the detailed descriptions of Tesla’s batteries versus GM’s batteries that I’ve seen, I’d argue Tesla’s are pretty inferior from a technical standpoint. They just made a bigger pack.

Patents were already publically disclosed. It does not take long to read the claims and the specification. So it’s an accuracte comment and in no way addresses the current work of the GM task force.

Yeah, I agree with most of the previous sentiment, and with the way Musk treated Martin Eberhart (founder of the Lotus’ Elise converted Roadster), I’d be ‘once bit, twice shy’.

Lawyers of course will disagree, but I just don’t see where the great technology advance has been. GM and some other companies are doing rather Novel battery packaging and cooling themselves.

Yeah made EVs is sooo easy that Tesla still waiting for a competition. The big auto makers have the money and tech to compete, the problem is that they don’t believe in EVs.

people are starting to buy more gas hogs again and GM and Ford make big bucks on them so I think EVs are looked at as too much up front cost right now so why bother….

Look at what the analyst said:

“I think they like what they do and generally think the technology they develop is top tech”.

What technology is he referring to? GM has no battery tech. Remember when they got scammed by Envia? GM is good at making ICE vehicles and that is their tech, nothing more unfortunately. My cars are all GM (well plus a Leaf now).

The author was probably referring to power electronics, motors, and transmissions. Tesla doesn’t begin to compete in these. And, while you’re 100% correct that GM has no battery technology, Tesla doesn’t either. It just uses standard Panasonic cells with inconsequential adjustments. At least GM has the facilities to test the batteries. Tesla doesn’t even have that.

As far as Envia, I thought that the ease and speed with which GM moved on after Envia failed to deliver showed it was comfortable substituting LG cells. I also thought that the fact GM was willing to go with an unproven upstart with promising battery technology showed great confidence in its battery testing facility. Finally, I didn’t and don’t see Envia as a scam. Not all promising technology works out. Envia delivered the promised energy density, just not the promised number of cycles.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

What other EV builder builds and uses their own AC motors?

You’re selling Tesla short, which is pretty comical given what they’ve managed to achieve so far.

“At least GM has the facilities to test the batteries. Tesla doesn’t even have that.”
It might not be as large, but Tesla does have facilities to test battery cells. I remember in another news about a new “revolutionary” cell from Japan, when Tesla was asked to comment they said they frequently ask companies making similar claims to send sample cells for testing, but never received any. So obviously they must have a way to test the cells if they are asking people to send it.


So by your absurd statement that Tesla doesn’t have a facility to test batteries, then they must ship the umptennthousand Model S’s without ever testing any battery or cell?

There’s a huge difference between battery test chambers and final test of the pack. Tesla does not check the batteries until they’re in the final pack. Ask one of their customers about the initial failure rate.

To settle this question, here’s a picture of a Tesla battery test chamber and description:
“Tesla does extensive testing of these cells at its headquarters, cycling them at different temperatures, trying different discharge rates, and even crushing them. The data Tesla collects gets used to refine the specifications sent to its suppliers, among them Panasonic and Samsung.”

So they test both the pack AND the cells themselves. As for failure rate, I don’t think anyone can tell for sure. Of the ones I have read about, the failed packs so far are for failed contactors, not cells. I have yet to hear about failed cells (maybe you have a link since you claim this is fairly common).

One is battery test, I mentioned Tesla had this capability, at least at a rudimentary extent.

Actual QC of the ready to install pack is another area altogether and is not discussed in your link.

No it’s not a 18650 failure, why would it be? A pact failure. However having said that any quality program would want 5 nines out of the 18650.

What you sent and linked to sounds like a marketing release. I can’t believe Panasonic shapes their 18650s based on the feedback described b

The harder your point becomes to prove the worse your typing gets.. I wonder why??

GM and Electric Fueled Vehicle Battery Tech?
Heh, wrote the book on it for the Modern Global EFV Industry!

At NAIAS 2007, when Concept Voltec E-Rev rolled on to the dias, the intended Traction Battery was still vaporware!

Now, just 33 months since Chevy Volt EREV left its 11 month, 6 state limited beta test market rollout and now pushing 100,000 in global Voltec Platform sales.

I’d say, Inhouse Battery Tech is second to none!

Anyway, just wanted to make sure that you are not posting here as an #antiEVZombie attack bot. Interested to see your reply.


Thomas J. Thias

The Amazing Chevy Volt EREV- Facts Guy


I don’t understand how anyone could think whether they know if they are interested in the patents at all.

First of all, they are NEVER going to publicly admit it. Who’s gonna say that their competitor has something better?!? no one.

And if we assume they are interested what would they do? They certainly would not publicly talk about it . . . they would just go ahead and start building products that incorporate some of the technology. But they would never admit it.

So stories like this are silly. You don’t know.

Love all the “Tesla is nothing special” and $manufacturer could do it if they wanted to comments–needed a good chuckle.

What Tesla has on their side is both culture and vision–while some have current manufacturers have the former, none have the latter.