Science & technology

#1070 Tesla Motors throws down the sustainability gauntlet at gas guzzlers


Tesla brings the rainbows; photo by Steve Jurveston, via Flickr Creative Commons

Kudos to Tesla Motors. On June 12, 2014 the manufacturer of electric cars made an unusual announcement: They went open source. That means any company acting in good faith can have free access to their proprietary technology.

Announcing the decision, which applies to both existing and future patents, Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, said:

Tesla Motors was created to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport. If we clear a path to the creation of compelling electric vehicles, but then lay intellectual property landmines behind us to inhibit others, we are acting in a manner contrary to that goal. Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.

The move puts Tesla ahead of the automotive pack in terms of walking the sustainability talk. It is also smart marketing, likely to appeal to electric-car buyers. Making their technology open source challenges hide-bound, fossil-fuel-guzzling, car manufacturers to step up the the plate and act on behalf of the planet.

Take that, Texas, Arizona, Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey. All five states have been in the forefront of the ban-the-Tesla movement. Other states are also trying to put on the brakes, including Ohio, New York, Massachusetts, Minnesota and North Carolina. Their heads are stuck firmly in the proverbial sand if they think consumers are willing to be forever chained to the gas pump. Climate change, environmental degradation and peak oil make those anti-Tesla actions look not just silly but downright criminal.

So good on you, Tesla. You not only made a smart marketing move. You made a corporate step in the right direction and threw down the gauntlet to the automotive industry. That gives me hope.

Now…let’s have a chat about real sustainability and actual affordability, Tesla. Electric cars should be available for those of us without deep pockets. If the company really wants to make a difference in terms of sustainable transportation, it can’t make cars only for the well-heeled. It also has to look beyond cars and to ways of moving people around with less of a drag on the planet. Maybe even look at why we are so hungry for the new and different that we are reluctant to take a look at the impact of our restlessness on the environment.

So really, what gives me hope with Tesla’s announcement is that a major corporation is opening its secret vaults, inviting the competition to make changes. I am a fan of the open-source movement, the sharing of what we learn, the generosity of the Web community. Together we can come up with alternatives to the consumer society Tesla markets to, alternatives to the endless hunger for New and Better, alternatives that remind us that real wealth is in each other, not more stuff.

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Tesla Motors Sizzle Reel from Tesla Motors on Vimeo.


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