The news: Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk hinted at a move earlier this week that could potentially change the automobile industry forever: They may give away Tesla's patented Supercharger technology to encourage the proliferation of electric cars.
Musk told his shareholders that he was playing with a "kind of controversial" idea to increase electric cars' adoption. On Monday, he confirmed his plan to open the Supercharger system to other electric car makers and share the communal charging stations. "We don't want to cut a path through the jungle and then lay a bunch of landmines behind us," Musk told the BBC.
This is great for electric cars: Tesla's Supercharger technology is undoubtedly the most efficient system on the market: 30 minutes is enough charge to fuel a Model S for 170 miles. Though other electric car makers have their own charging methods, there is no universal standard. The Supercharger's advanced technology could fill that gap.
Image Credit: Tesla
One of the biggest issues facing electric cars is the current lack of convenient, easily accessible charging stations. Sites such as Plugshare help electric car drivers figure out where they can get an emergency charge, but the stations listed can range from parking garages to kind volunteers' homes. If more car makers adopt Tesla's technology, these companies can pool resources to fund more Supercharger stations and make electric cars a more attractive option in the process.
This is also great for Tesla: Of course Tesla is not a charity, which is why there's an upside for them as well. While Tesla is currently dominating the electric car market, it still wants to increase the size of that market overall. Last year, the company sold 22,500 cars. But if the interest in and demand for electric cars rise, Tesla can easily boost that number.
There are other practical benefits as well. Tesla is looking to expand its Supercharger network and could subsidize its costs if other companies adopt the technology. There are currently 94 Supercharger stations in North America, but only 20 in Europe and three in Asia. Tesla's plan is to increase coverage in the United States and Canada to 98% by 2015 — an ambitious goal that could use a lot of help from other car makers.
Current 2014 coverage. Image Credit: Tesla
Expected 2015 coverage. Image Credit: Tesla
While sharing proprietary technology with competitors might seem like a strange move, Tesla's focus is not on the immediate benefits of its Supercharger system, but rather on guaranteeing the health of the electric car market and increasing consumer interest. It's an "all for one, one for all" mindset that will ultimately benefit Tesla in the long run.