Chinese Startup Goes All Out Cloning Tesla Via Open-Source Patents

2 weeks ago by Steven Loveday 14

Tesla

Xiaopeng Motors, Xpeng electric SUV built using Tesla’s open-sourced patents (Image Credit: Xiaopeng Motors)

Thanks to Tesla’s decision to open-source its patents, Chinese startup Xiaopeng Motors has already manufactured several Model X clones.

Ok, it’s not an exact clone, because it’s geared to a more mainstream market. However, the resemblance in the details is obvious.

Though Tesla CEO, Elon Musk has made it clear that his intentions are to motivate other companies to accelerate the segment, thus far, there hasn’t really been an automaker that has officially come forward and admitted to using the automaker’s patents.

Tesla

As you can see, the Xpeng features a large, center-mounted touchscreen with a Tesla-style layout (Image Credit: Xiaopeng Motors)

Xiaopeng Motors has been around since 2014. Henry Xia left China’s Guangzhou Automobile Group when he learned that he could use Tesla’s patents to make “clone” vehicles. Now, the company has released a beta version of its first creation. It’s an all-electric SUV, loosely based on the Model X. The automaker calls it the Xpeng and they’ve already made 15 fully functional copies.

Based on information from multiple sources, Xiaopeng is using the same “skateboard” battery pack design, the same 18650 cell format, a large center-mounted touch-screen infotainment system with Tesla-style interface, and Autopilot-like features.

In addition to following the Silicon Valley electric carmaker’s patents, Xiaopeng hired Tesla’s former machine learning head for Autopilot, Junli Gu. As the automaker moves forward with plans for autonomous features, Gu will head up the development.

The Xpeng is not considered a luxury vehicle like the Model X, rather the plan is for it to appeal to a wider audience. For this reason, it won’t offer the level of high-performance found in Tesla’s vehicles. Xiaopeng says it will have about 300 km (186 miles) of range. The fact that the Xpeng will be an affordable vehicle could prove advantageous for the automaker since Tesla’s cars are substantially pricier in China.

Xiaopeng is in the process of raising capital to move to full production (100,000 vehicles per year). According to Electrek, the automaker has already raised over $300 million of its $1.4 billion goal.

Check out some associated videos below and follow the links for more pictures and information:

Source: Electrek, Xiaopeng Motors, Hightech.fm

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14 responses to "Chinese Startup Goes All Out Cloning Tesla Via Open-Source Patents"

  1. theflew says:

    What Tesla patents are they using? Skateboard design, LCD display, SUV style aren’t patents. Even use of the 18650 cells aren’t special.

  2. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

    I would guess this is just another way for a Chinese manufacturer to try to ride the coat-tales of Tesla’s popularity and success.

    Tesla’s offer of a free patent license has been described as “open source”, but it’s not. Tesla has published terms and conditions for sharing its patents… and some of those conditions are very unlikely to be agreeable to any company which actually respects patent rights. In general, Chinese manufactures don’t.

    Specifically, Tesla’s terms of service for sharing its patents requires that any company it shares with, also has to share its own patents freely with anyone else. Details at the link below:

    https://www.tesla.com/about/legal#patent-pledge

    1. Terawatt says:

      As a software guy you really should know better, Pupu. Tesla’s patents are certainly deserving of being called open source. In fact, it places LESS restrictions on use than typical open source software licenses!

      The GPL is *far* more restrictive than the terms Tesla defined here. And so is BSD and MIT, even though they allow much more than the GPL! Even the most open creative commons licenses typically require attribution, but Tesla doesn’t even demand that.

      All they actually say is that use must be in good faith. I fail to see what’s so restrictive about that.

    2. Yogurt says:

      PP not saying something 100% nice about Tesla??
      No need to insult a start up Chinese company saying they wont share their patients per Teslas agreement when the reality is they probably have none of any value so why wouldt they share…
      The other reality is the auto industry big guys often dont inforce their patients vs each other…
      I once read an article about Toyota going after Ford for violating their hybrid car patients in which Ford smacked them down telling them their were violating a pile of their patients and then they just signed a cross licensing agreement…
      Patients are often so losely given and generic they are partialy junk…

  3. zzzzzzzzzz says:

    Dear Musk Culties,

    As it was noted 1000 times before, it is not “Open Source”. It is legally vague proposal of patent exchange. Beneficiary is required to surrender his rights to his own patents, likely more valuable than Tesla’s. Only some fly-over-night (Chinese) startup may benefit from it.

    https://www.tesla.com/about/legal#patent-pledge

  4. zzzzzzzzzz says:

    What is “Open Source”:
    https://opensource.org/history

  5. Mikael says:

    Almost a perfect clone…about zero resemblance. I wonder which patents they used.

  6. (⌐■_■) Trollnonymous says:

    IMHO, looks better than the MX.

    1. Davek says:

      Agreed! And with conventional doors all around, it almost looks like the car Tesla should have made! Certainly a more relevant vehicle than a $100 000 luxury SUV, in any case. Setting aside, for the moment, Tesla’s obvious advantages when it comes to infotainment and charging infrastructure…

  7. unlucky says:

    Note that Tesla’s patent pledge allows them to sue you if they feel you knocked off their product or are trying to associate your product with them.

    https://www.tesla.com/about/legal#patent-pledge

    So this product likely isn’t even covered under Tesla’s patent pledge (swap) program.

    1. Terawatt says:

      They are allowed to sue whoever they want not by their own documents but by law… but they are making such lawsuits unlikely to succeed if the patents were used in good faith. The copycat point is elaborated and clearly meant to prevent products that either can be mistaken as Tesla’s or give the impression Tesla has endorsed them. In other words you can’t use their patents and make your own stuff and then claim it’s “powered by Tesla” or something like that. But you can use the patent as long as you don’t say or create the impression Tesla has therefore endorsed the product. Tesla can still sue of course – anyone can sue, for however poor reasons they like – but thanks to this pledge you’d have no reason to worry if they did.

      It’s not open source because it’s more open than open source. There’s no requirement that derivative work must itself come with the same license. There’s no restriction on commerce. There’s no attribution requirement. But it is a pledge never to sue anyone using Tesla’s patents, including future patents, in good faith. Technically that’s not a license, but practically, what’s the difference?

  8. ModernMarvelFan says:

    That is great!

    That is one way to push the price point down to the affordable market.

    Maybe it will be price comparable to the upcoming Model Y but in the size of a Model X.

  9. Derek says:

    Have to agree, it looks better than the X.

  10. Tman says:

    This looks like it’s based on the Toyota Rav4 similar profile and the doors are a dead giveaway. Toyota products seem to be the go to template for Chinese car makers. Even the BYD Qin is based on the corolla design and the Tang uses a second generation Lexus RX with reskinned nose and tail.

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