This post is an expanded version of one item from Planet Waves’ environmental newsletter. Called the Monsanto Eco Newsletter, this weekly publication is free; you can sign up here. This week’s full issue is available here. — Amanda
Named for Nikola Tesla, the famous inventor who stopped patenting his ideas due to legal frustrations, electric automaker Tesla Motors of California announced it will give away its entire patent portfolio, the Associated Press reported June 13.
Tesla Motors makes highly innovative, fully electrical cars that have had issues gaining domestic market traction (though they’ve been a big hit in Norway); Tesla takes the interesting approach of only selling direct to its customers to save commissions and keep costs down. However, most U.S. states limit or ban direct-to-consumer car sales.
Although Tesla has followed the typical Silicon Valley approach to marketing new technology (aiming for affluent buyers first, then broadening offerings to more middle-income buyers as technology is finessed, like with cell phones), it has from the outset been guided by the goal of hastening electric vehicle technology throughout the world.
That technology was nearly crushed by the U.S. automotive industry in the mid-1990s, as outlined by the documentary Who Killed the Electric Car. The film details the roles of automobile manufacturers, the oil industry, the U.S. government, the California government and consumers in first fostering and then curtailing the development and adoption of electric vehicles.
Nearly 5000 electric cars were designed and manufactured by a handful of makers, only to be recalled and destroyed (a few were donated to museums and educational institutions). Tesla introduced its Roadster — which uses an alternative battery technology and an AC motor descended directly from Nikola Tesla’s original 1882 design — two years after the film’s release.
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