General Motors Shows No Interest In Tesla Patents

FEB 25 2015 BY MARK KANE 103

Chevrolet Bolt

Chevrolet Bolt

There was a lot of hype when Tesla Motors announced that it would make available all its patents for free and when Tesla CEO Elon Musk posted a blog titled “All Our Patent Are Belong To You.

Later, we found out that the Big 3 was not interested in the Tesla portfolio.

Some companies were interested, but we don’t know if any of those companies were carmakers, nor do we know which patents were of interest.

A recent article on the GM Authority indicates that GM will not use Tesla patents. According to the Bill Wallace, GM’s director of global battery systems, GM is going down its own path.

“In our interview, we brought up the “T” word. “T” standing for Tesla Motors, owned by firebrand billionaire Elon Musk. And while we are of the take that Tesla and GM products don’t exactly compete toe-to-toe, it was interesting to hear Wallace’s take on the company. And while he acknowledges the engineering prowess that went into building the Tesla Model S, General Motors has no intention of using the California company’s now-openly-sourced patented technologies currently.

Ultimately, General Motors plans on being an EV frontrunner in its own way, as Wallace pointed to the fact that GM itself holds the most “green” patents of any automaker. It could be sheer stubbornness that GM chooses not to use Tesla patents in good faith, or it could just as well be that GM has enough resources and technology to create something that’s even better than a Tesla in the future.”

Well, maybe Apple will use the patents then.

Source: GM Authority

Categories: Battery Tech, Chevrolet, Tesla


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103 Comments on "General Motors Shows No Interest In Tesla Patents"

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The hubristic response was not unexpected…

You said it a bit nicer than I was going to. 🙂

Tesla doesn’t have anything substantive in their patents. They produced a vehicle that, in aggregate, consumes more energy when sleeping and parked than when it’s being driven.

They don’t have any patents that would be beneficial to GM, and GM has more experience (time-wise and volume-wise) than Tesla does with respect to electric vehicles.

I wouldn’t call it arrogance. The Tesla is a great car but it’s technology is not above what other car manufacturers can achieve. Technologically speaking the Tesla uses proven battery technology and good motors to power their vehicle, based on this, the Volt for example is a much more complex vehicle. Again, I would still prefer a Model S or X over my Volt and very likely will be my next vehicle.

Yea, hard to call it arrogance.
If I were a VP of Engineering earning millions and have a global engineering team of thousands of engineers, it’d be very difficult for me to tell the board that yes, we have to use a competitor’s solution.

I’d call it job security. 🙂

Well put.

You mean besides the Tesla superchargers, and the way the car takes any voltage with a single plug? It seems that every other automaker is having trouble with replicating that effort. And honestly, I can’t think of a single reason to say “no” to the supercharger network. It’s far and away a better customer experience. The chargers are located in convenient locations, they’re more reliable, and there’s more plugs per location, so if one is in use or broken, you’re not completely out of luck. This is the complete opposite of how ChaDeMo has been rolled out, especially in America. At least half of the locations are at Nissan dealerships, which have a tendency towards being in the sort of place people only ever bother to go when they’re buying a car or getting it fixed. The plug heads are fragile, overly complicated (in an effort to make them more robust, it seems) and prone to breaking. And of course, in an effort to keep costs down, there’s rarely more than one plug at each charging location. So if it’s already in use, you’re waiting in line, or if it’s broken, then you’re looking somewhere else or reverting back to… Read more »

“You mean besides the Tesla superchargers, and the way the car takes any voltage with a single plug? It seems that every other automaker is having trouble with replicating that effort.”

A supercharger is nothing extraordinary, it’s just another DC quick charger.

And the last time I checked, the J1772 standard can also handle different voltages with a single plug.

Yes, well, in essence what else can they say?
Perhaps: Due to the fact that Tesla scooped us and the entire auto industry it is only logical for us to peruse and use the patents which Tesla have so graciously made available to the recalcitrant, backward looking, poorly managed industry that we are.
Instead they react like little children, I want to do it myself. Well I suppose, maybe they will learn something.

Are you folks crying? There there! I will throw a penny for those patents.

GM has better technology that Tesla. PHEV is the way to go right now. Making electric-only cars is piece of cake. Even Kandi and thousand others in China make them in thousands every day. Just check out the China EV sales for January.

No one has made an all electric car with the range of the Tesla Model S (or Roadster).
No one has a fast charge network across three continents capable of recharging such a car in short order.

Drove 1,200 miles last week (Fri/Sat and Tues/Weds) and will do 600 this weekend (Sat/Sun).

“GM has better technology than* Tesla.” Har har har! That’s like saying “Google had android BEFORE Apple had the iPhone!” While that MAY be true, it is besides the point. It is not about who HAS the better technology, it is about who chooses to IMPLEMENT the technology aggressively! Tesla may not have the “better” technology, but they developed their own technology and went all in on it. GM sat on it, released one (admittedly well designed) car and one compliance car. Tesla is the ONLY all PEV automaker and will stay that way for as long as they exist and for as long as there is an automotive market. I’ll believe GM is all in on the plug-in future when they either start converting over their ICE fleet to PEV or winding up production on their ICE fleet! For now, they see PEV as a niche market and until circumstances slap them in the face, that is ALL they will EVER see it as. Tesla is proving otherwise and will continue to prove otherwise. Just like Apple knew there was a market for iPhones before there was actually was one, Tesla knows there is a market for PEVs before… Read more »

No, it has to do with other manufacturers not wanting to use Tesla patents and your post has nothing to do with that.

I know what the post is about. I was responding to that one point he made and how irrelevant it is. Which is why I quoted that point. If I were replying to his entire post, then I wouldn’t have quoted anything.

GM has better technology than Tesla?


Where is it?

“….GM has better technology than Tesla?


Where is it?….”

All Tesla drive motors have rotor heating, which is an undesireable loss of power since it takes electricity to do the heating, and the heat just makes the motor overheat sooner.

GM on the other hand, has zero rotor heating, in common with the Leaf, amoungst others. In these cars, there is not induced current in the rotor, therefore no wasted electricity and no heating.

This is most definitely a technology advance and would not have been possible when the technology used in the motors Tesla uses was invented.

“….GM has better technology than Tesla?


Where is it?….”

All Tesla drive motors have rotor heating, which is an undesireable loss of power since it takes electricity to do the heating, and the heat just makes the motor overheat sooner.

GM on the other hand, has zero rotor heating, in common with the Leaf, amoungst others. In these cars, there is no induced current in the rotor, therefore no wasted electricity and no heating.

This is most definitely a technology advance and would not have been possible when the technology used in the motors Tesla uses was invented.

That said, the superior technology that GM uses isn’t unique to the automobile industry, and the old-fashioned technology that Tesla uses quite obviously is not too much of a hinderance since they can make a Sedan go 0-60 in 3 seconds.

I don’t know the reason why GM decided why they did to refuse these patents any more than I suspect any of the rest of us Lay public does.

But I suspect it was a legalistic ball-of-wax that they didn’t care to deal with, since their lawyering is tied up with the ignition switches.

Knowing GM, they are too proud to use it even if there are patents that would be useful.

I wish they had been too proud to take the bail out money…

It takes a lot of effort for people with dignity to take money. But, contrary to legal opinion, corporations are not people.

Big Banking took way more, hope you’re also making a statement there by keeping your cash inside your mattress.

Too bad people aren’t upset with how much money the oil industry gets out of the government. I’d bet most Americans are unaware the fossil fuel industries (the most profitable industry in history) get money from the government.

What does Tesla have that other automakers don’t? Big deal, they know how to stick a really big battery and drive motor in a car at the expense of making the car cost a fortune. Anyone can do that.

Tesla has a network of superchargers that are much faster than any existing L2 or L3 chargers, allowing cars to be recharged to 80% in about 20 minutes.

My numbers might be off slightly be the superchargers are SO much faster than most other public chargers. Also, they tend to be located along travel routes instead of at dealerships as Nissan and other manufacturers do.

Maybe so. But I’m talking about intellectual property (patents). There is no reason GM or anyone else couldn’t build a network of fast chargers. They just don’t want to invest the money.

And none of their cars can consume 100KW-135KW power. The batteries need to be lot larger to charge at these faster rates. So, they are simply building what their cars can use, and building more of them at lower costs.

You work for ExxonMobil, don’t you?

They figured out how to stuff thousands of twitchy 250 Wh/kg battery cells into a car- and with a little trial and error they figured out how to keep the car from bursting into flames when the car hits something. They also did a great job with the software and I love how I get an improved car with over the air updates every few months. I’m not sure GM has the skills to do as good of a job with the software.

That is great but it’s not patented technology, therefore other manufacturers won’t be able to use it.

The way they packaged the small cells into the battery pack is most definitely explained in some of the Tesla patents. Among other things, they made things cheaper by stripping out the expensive protection circuitry from each cell and connecting the cells to the rest of the battery module with small wires that act as fuses. I believe they also re-engineered the ends of the cells to to make the venting more predictable- and to break the wire attaching the cell to the rest of the battery if the cell vents.

Here are more details on the patented aspects of Tesla’s battery cells and battery packs:

Again, all great but all other manufacturers have their own cell designs already.

And their designs appear to cost 50% more per KwH than Teslas…

And 100% safer and more reliable too. Don’t need the titanium shield either.

That has nothing to do with the cells though, only the pack design (the core thing being the swappable design that necessitates the pack being outside the car body).

Let’s not forget GM had a similar retrofit of steel plates onto their battery pack.

Come on now, isn’t it cool to say “My car has Titanium in it, and yours doesn’t.”

Doh, Once again See Through is contradicted by the facts!

How come we have so few choices of good BEVs then?

And what are the Wh/Kg of those cells? The cells in the new Kia Soul EV are close- 200 Wh/Kg vs. 250 Wh/Kg in the Model S. But at least from what I’ve read, the cells in other EVs on the market have less than 200 Wh/KG.

Well have you reviewed all the patents? If you haven’t, then you really don’t know what they have do you? Heck, even if you do read the patents, you still won’t know without consulting an expert.

If there was anything useful, we would have heard. Even non of the Chinese electric car makers are interested in these. What does it tell you?

That doesn’t say anything – they rip everything off that they possibly can over there – who knows what’s showing up in their domestic EVs.

If anyone can do that why didnt they? Why did some small guy no one has barely heard off come in and steal the future from the rest?

While they might not have used them, maybe they use them to point them in the direction they wanted to take?

That is a retry silly comment. You need to understand the patents so you don’t infringe on existing IP. It would be sad if GM were so arrogant as to use a poorer solution to avoid acknowledging a contributing by Tesla.

For f**ks sake, Tesla did not “open source” a damn thing!

All Tesla did was promise not to sue you if you infringed on their patents.

Why should GM copy Tesla’s designs?

True. Patents are public documents by default. They are supposed to “enable one of ordinary skill in the art to make or use the invention”.

Why would GM copy Teslas’ designs? Dunno, but someone should ask them why their “Bolt” prototype sports copies of the Model S’s retracting door handles… 😉

Actually the Bolt’s door handles don’t retract. They’re manual swivel and pull type.

The Bolt also has 4 wheels like the Tesla!

“Why should GM copy Tesla’s designs?”

I don’t know. Why did GM create a team solely for keeping tabs on Tesla?

Well GM has a lot of ugly generic looking cars.

What differentiates Tesla from the Big 3 isn’t technology. It’s paradigm, which isn’t a patent issue. Direct-to-owner sales. Service at the owner’s house. Push software updates out. Dedicated national Supercharger network. Focus ONLY on EV products. These are policies controlled by management decisions, not engineering.

GM doesn’t need Tesla’s patents. But they do need Tesla – to give them enough competition to drive them to a more consumer-responsive 21st-century business model.

Exactly, the same reason the Mustang needs the Camaro.

Maybe instead of speaking in generalities (“patents”), someone could list a specific patent and describe why it would be better than something GM itself invented.

Musk said January 13 that he doesn’t even want to know if some other company uses Tesla’s patents. So if I were GM, and I wanted to use a Tesla patent, I don’t need to tell anyone or admit it.

I agree HVAC, Tesla is so far ahead of the competition because of their forward thinking management that it could take decades for the others to catch up but I hope it doesn’t.

A perfect example of Tesla’s forward thinking approach is that they are utilizing the GM invented Skateboard platform which is superior from the perspective of interior space usage and the ability to easily drop the battery pack for maintenance or even swapping.

Meanwhile GM stuck with the inferior T Pack on the 2nd generation Volt which compromises that car’s interior.

I fully support GM’s battery pack design for the Volt. There are very good reasons why they designed it that way.

Name one?
GM kept the “T” design to sell less of this hybrid, instead of rolling out a Bolt 10 years ago.

The Volt has a gasoline engine, gas tank, exhaust system that make it impossible for them to use a skateboard design. The T battery design is a good compromise that has proven itself to be reliable and resistant to impacts.

Lol! On a lateral impact, you get crushed between the battery and the door!

IIHS and NHTSA disagree with you.

Lu, that is not supported by the facts. As of last summer not one person had ever died in a Volt. Not one. I don’t think there is another car out there that can make that boast.
I haven’t seen a GM spokesmen address it this year so perhaps someone has died in an accident while driving a Volt but so far I haven’t seen any evidence of it.
So the safety issue looks to be one where the Volt shines.

I was talking aBout the bad design and placement of the batteries. Not necesseraly dying from a lateral impact, but your hips and lower body can certainly be stuck in a steel sandwich.

Well Anton, the real question is why doesn’t GM use their own technology like the superior Skateboard platform???

GM is using a flat battery design in the Bolt.

Simple, the Volt still has an ICE and all the components including an exhaust system and the Spark EV is based on an ICE platform therefore they used the space where the gas tank goes to fill with batteries. Like MTN Ranger mentioned, the Bolt which is built from the ground up to be an EV will use a flat battery design.

They coulD use the space under the seats, like Nissan and others to compensate.

And so does the BMW I3 Rex, but it has a flat floor/no tunnel.

What’s the catch in using Tesla’s open source patents? Do they have to put the Tesla emblem on the car or something?

No real ‘catch’ (as in a trick) . . . but the company has to build an EV and they can’t use their own patents against Tesla.

hmmm… maybe that *is* the catch.

Based on your description, this is what can happen:

1. GM uses one or more of Tesla’s patents in their car since it is free.
2. Telsa notices. Starts copying features of that car that may be GM patented.
3. GM can’t do a thing about it.

That’s the catch. If you use Tesla’s patents, you’ve basically opened up your own as well.

“Well, maybe Apple will use the patents then.”


The Apple Car is already done! 😉

It’s not as simple as using or not using them. As we see with all the patent litigation these days, companies semi-copy patents and then argue forever in court if they’ve actually used them.

There’s no benefit to another company to acknowledge using Tesla’s patents, so other companies will simply semi-copy the patents if need be, while denying using them. Since it’ll never go to court, the patents will never officially be used, yet will inspire all sorts of copy-cat designs.

Indeed. And in this case, GM could COMPLETELY copy aspects in Tesla’s patents because Tesla has promised not to sue. And GM never has to acknowledge if they copied. (Why would they? Who wants to complement your competitor?)

People that write these articles don’t understand the way patents work. There is nothing for GM to do to ‘use’ these patents under Tesla’s unilateral contract offer. And do you expect GM to issue fawning statements about their competitor?

The fact that GM is building a 200 mile EV is proof that they are interested in the EV space. And it is possible that GM may ‘use’ some of Tesla’s patents by infringing those Tesla patents (whether intentionally or unintentionally). The fact that Tesla issued that unilateral contract may have contributed to GM green-lighting the 200 mile EV project since it reduced the risk of getting into a patent fight.

But there is nothing public, affirmative, or easily noticeable for GM to do in order to ‘use’ the patents.

GM was working on the Bolt well before Tesla released any patents.

Sure . . . but they could have let it die instead of green-lighting the production.

the person who seems to not understand how patents (or contracts) works is *you*. there is a lot more to this than you think there is. first, you have to know what the FULL contract is, that is, you have to know under what conditions you would be able to make “free” use of the tesla patents. some people may not like the conditions.

the second issue, is that to use tesla patents, you have to develop a product technology path that will be tied to the subject matter in the tesla patents. that means that if there are limitations in the tesla patents that might restrict future features, &c., you “buy” those limitations when you commit to the “free” tesla patents. some people may not want to do that.

the bottom line is that it is easy for people to write comments here as elon musk fanboys who believe that everything that he says is gospel, but many people have to live in the real world; and those people need more than slogans upon which to make decisions.

Ahh, another post that asks why GM doesn’t use Tesla’s patents. You could really do a story every day on why Honda doesn’t. Or Toyota, or Hyundai, or Ford, or Nissan, and keep this going for a month or so.

I’d be impressed to see Tesla working cooperatively with other manufacturers on safety standards, or charging, or presenting at conferences, or publishing in journals.

It is worth mentioning that one of the conditions of using Tesla’s patents is that you may not then go after Tesla for violating YOUR patents.

Given that GM purportedly has a larger EV patent portfolio than Tesla, it would be very much against their interests to open that entire patent portfolio to Tesla by using Tesla’s patents.

i’d say that condition is a deal killer…but the “free patents” offer does make for good PR.

PleasE provide a link to back you statement, never heard of such condition before.

It is a common condition in these kind of patent indemnity release. You can see more here:

Musk said that Tesla “will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.” It is not credible to claim that Tesla would allow a company who is using Tesla patents to sue Tesla for patent infringement without a countersuit; this is the explicit purpose of “defensive” patents.

So essentially, by using Tesla’s patents, GM would be giving Tesla a green light to use any patent GM has, or face a countersuit from Tesla for patent infringement. Again, this is precisely how “defensive patents” work (even those that have been “opened to the public”).

“Tesla has probably” There is nothing solid in your link to back your claim.
So you’re making this up.

Do you understand anything about patent indemnity?

Let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that everything I have said is totally baseless and without grounds. That doesn’t even matter, because in the well-established world of patent law, suing someone who is letting you use their patents will, without fail, result in a patent-violation countersuit from that company.

So, in the absence of a direct and ironclad statement from Tesla stating that “using our patents does not preclude you from suing us for violating your patents,” it would be incredibly dumb for any automaker with a substantial patent portfolio of their own to walk into the minefield of Tesla patents.

You are aware that patent violation damages are tripled if it can be proven that you knowingly violated a patent, right? This is why many large companies intentionally avoid reading filed patents as a rule.


Hasn’t this been brought up at least twice before?…

How about do a story on the number of Patents each auto manufacturer has registered and paid for vs. the patents that they actually use in their products?

You can patent most anything, but who gives a crap about it if it’s not worth using.

Sure…Like, how many dozen companies wish they could copy that electric cupholder in the ELR?


Through out your babies and adopt someone else’s, or else risk getting on the bad side of the Tesla fan Club

The most important thing GM will regret not using is Tesla’s proprietary charging hardware and the Supercharger network that goes along with it… Level 2 charging stations are a joke and Level 3 charging stations are still too slow when you start talking about a 200 mile car. The Tesla Supercharger network will still be the ONLY nationwide high speed charging network that ACTUALLY facilitates long distance travel.

Yes, it’s a pity that we cannot recharge our 200+ miles upcoming BEVs on the only decent charging network, only because the ICE cartel wants Tesla dead.

I agree. I’ve had enough of the ICE cartel. I demand they immediately stop producing all ICE vehicles, including the ones used to deliver parts and materials to Fremont and completed vehicles to customers. And shut down that Gigafactory site now. Have you seen all the pickup trucks there? And no more jet travel for Elon, either. 😉

What a stupid comment! 😉

It is, isn’t it? 😉

Tesla has the greatest vehicle ever made in the existence of mankind.

I don’t think the situation is anywhere near as simple as this article tries to make it seem. Is it really arrogance or hubris on GM’s part to refuse to use Telsa’s patents? Consider: 1. Auto makers compete by offering something -different- than their competitors. If GM decided to use Tesla’s patents, how much more like Tesla’s cars would they have to make their EVs? One thing is certain: If potential customers perceive GM’s EVs as second-best imitations of Tesla’s cars, they’re not likely to buy as many. 2. GM has invested many billions of dollars to develop their own line of cars, including investments in machines to build those cars, and training of people to build them. How much of that would GM have to change things to be able to use Tesla’s patents? Does it even make sense for GM to make such changes, rather than continue down their own EV development path; a path which includes the GM EV1, the Volt, and the Spark? 3. Okay, so Tesla in essence said “Anybody can have a free license to use our patents.” But note this is -not- the same as Tesla saying “We give up all rights to… Read more »

Well said, thanks.

1-Lots of patents are small parts, buried inside other larger components. They don’t even have to talk about it.

On the other hand, this GM declaration could also be just a PR exercise and they will use many of Tesla’s patent. We’ll never know.

2-It’s a very tiny bit of money required
to adapt/replace a component spread on thousands of cars. Your point is far fetched IMO.

3- This unlikely policy change would not affect past agreements.

“Competition drives innovation”. And the century old petro-auto cartel kill it as they want Tesla die.
ICE car business as usual is way more profitable for Oil companies and Car makers because of the complexity prone to break of the explosion engine, the numerous maintenance fees, and also the short life of this kind of drivetrain.
Simple maths.

The bottom line is that car makers are not *really* interrested in producing good EVs. A car like the non existent Bold should have taken the market by storm ten years ago as the EV2 and mass production would have driven down the costs of batteries big time. Simple math.

Your simple math has some large errors. 10 years ago, the battery technology was not viable, and the subsidies via tax credits to help enable the technology were non-existent.

Let’s not be too hard on the BOLT just yet. After all, it was just a pre-intro release. Let’s see if they actually make the thing. They might you know.

It was a CONCEPT. The production Volt was very different from the concept Volt. The production Bolt, if they actually do build it, will be different. Still, I do wish GM would move away from the T battery. That back seat hump is pretty unforgivably huge. I HATED having to sit on the hump when I was a kid. Back then it was the drive train. But even as a kid it put your legs and feet in very uncomfortable positions.