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Musk Will Open Up Tesla Supercharger Patents To Spur Development

samzenpus posted about 1 month ago | from the here-you-go dept.

Patents 230

redletterdave (2493036) writes "Elon Musk has said repeatedly he wants to 'do something controversial' with Tesla's collection of electric car patents, but he finally offered specifics at the UK launch of his Tesla Model S on Sunday. The Tesla Motors CEO said he would like to open up the designs for his Supercharger systems — the free fast-charging stations designed to quickly refuel Tesla's electric cars — to create a standard for other car makers to use. Musk previously said he didn't want Superchargers to become a 'walled garden.'"

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230 comments

He continues to show himself to be ... (5, Informative)

c0d3g33k (102699) | about 1 month ago | (#47196593)

... a very smart man.

Re:He continues to show himself to be ... (0)

geekoid (135745) | about 1 month ago | (#47196607)

well, smart is relative. This shows him to be pro society.
From a stock holder perspective. it's a very dumb move.

Re:He continues to show himself to be ... (5, Insightful)

Andrio (2580551) | about 1 month ago | (#47196639)

I want to be like Elon Musk when I grow up.

Re:He continues to show himself to be ... (5, Insightful)

amiga3D (567632) | about 1 month ago | (#47196659)

It may be smart in other ways. If it becomes the standard then it means that he doesn't eventually get stuck using someone else's standards (maybe one of the big automakers) and have to pay fee's to use their patented design. Once electric cars catch on these stations will be everywhere.

Re:He continues to show himself to be ... (2)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 1 month ago | (#47196725)

That's called risk management. A good CRO would see this and bring it up to the board.

Stations will be everywhere? (1)

swb (14022) | about 1 month ago | (#47196987)

Will they?

Assuming a large transformation of the auto fleet to electric, will supercharging stations show up everywhere?

Will recharging, especially high-current recharging, be free everywhere?

I would assume that someone has to pay for bringing in the half-megawatt of power required to charge 20-some cars at the same time. I don't know, but I assume this might be non-trivial in a lot of places or require the power company to upgrade service to make this happen.

And I also assume that the electricity wouldn't be free, someone will be paying for that somehow, too.

Re:Stations will be everywhere? (4, Informative)

Agent0013 (828350) | about 1 month ago | (#47197063)

Just because the recharging stations will be everywhere and be compatible, does not mean they will all be free to use.

Re:Stations will be everywhere? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47197437)

No, they probably won't be free, but neither is gas now. Tesla is making it's charging stations free now to promote their cars, knowing that no one else is going to use them or build them anytime soon. When most of us are driving electric cars of various makes, it's quite likely Tesla's charging stations won't be free to non-Tesla owners either.

Re:He continues to show himself to be ... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47196661)

LOL, you're not looking at the big picture.

Re:He continues to show himself to be ... (5, Insightful)

OldHawk777 (19923) | about 1 month ago | (#47196675)

I am a small Tesla stock holder. This is good business from this stock holder's perspective. Make the market move and be the market leader.

Re:He continues to show himself to be ... (2)

lupine (100665) | about 1 month ago | (#47197361)

As a fellow TSLA stock holder, I absolutely agree.

The growing electric vehicle market has plenty of room for multiple manufacturers. Tesla by itself cannot grow faster without introducing quality issues and cannot make vehicles fast enough to transition the entire vehicle market. Other automakers are unwilling to invest in their own supercharger network and without access to high power fast charging they will be forced to produce plug-in hybrids for the foreseeable future. Opening the standard would help bring in more capital to build the supercharger network and hasten the transition to zero emission vehicles.

Re:He continues to show himself to be ... (4, Insightful)

gbjbaanb (229885) | about 1 month ago | (#47196679)

not necessarily - its like Microsoft giving away IE ... it makes sense because it encourages other manufacturers to use your charging kit, and so your cars have access to other's chargers - and so they become more convenient to own, and that lets you be more mainstream and that lets you sell more of them.

Generally protectionism just hurts everyone.

Re:He continues to show himself to be ... (5, Insightful)

mwvdlee (775178) | about 1 month ago | (#47196697)

Are the superchargers a unique selling point of their products or are they an enabling infrastructure?
Tesla is not just fighting other car makers, they are fighting public perception of electric cars.
Growing the entire entire electric car market is more profitable than merely taking a larger chunk of a small electric car market.

Re:He continues to show himself to be ... (3, Interesting)

Firethorn (177587) | about 1 month ago | (#47197191)

Are the superchargers a unique selling point of their products or are they an enabling infrastructure?

At this point the former, but he's made statements in the past he'd like it to be the latter. Of course, of the common-build EVs*, his has the largest battery packs capable of taking the fastest charge. At 120 kW, a supercharger station blows most other EV stations out of the water.

For example, J1772 [wikipedia.org] maxes out at 19.2kW at AC level 2, and 90kW for DC level 2., with the DC lvl 2 standard not even being finalized yet, and DC level 3 still in the initial planning stages.
CHAdeMO's wiki [wikipedia.org] is less useful, but it's connector is limited to 62kW. It's homepage lists chargers that max out at 60kW. [chademo.com]

I'll also say that compared to Tesla's chargers, the alternatives are indeed clunky. I think that Tesla compatibility might be a compelling choice if I'm making a moderate(150+ miles) or longer ranged EV if it enables me to sell access to the supercharger network as a feature point.

*Disclaimer because I'm sure there's one-offs that can do just the same.

Re:He continues to show himself to be ... (5, Insightful)

Jody Williams (3688505) | about 1 month ago | (#47196701)

Pro society? Not really. This is a brilliant move in terms of getting his infrastructure built for him. The stations he's been putting up all over the country will drive him bankrupt pretty fast at the pace he's trying to keep. Spreading the load around to other potential electric vehicle manufacturers just means he's getting free gas stations. It is brilliant, I won't deny that.

Re:He continues to show himself to be ... (2)

beltsbear (2489652) | about 1 month ago | (#47196911)

Not true. The cost has been low enough it is not much of a blip on their balance sheet.

Not really (2)

bussdriver (620565) | about 1 month ago | (#47196955)

Supercharging sites they can afford to slowly build out. They do not lose money with these charging stations; the one I've seen was clearly a smart move. They bought the land around the charging station as well --- now something is being built upon it! The SMART move is to buy the space put in the chargers; make them free-- then RENT the commercial space around the charger! You make $$ either way.

Fast charging still can hold the customer long enough to buy some junk while waiting. Slower charging means the customer has to wait 10s of minutes... and buy more or eat a meal...

It is not pro-business to allow others to lure customers in with their charging stations when your proprietary ones make you money. Sure, long term being open helps; but that isn't modern business thinking.

Re:Really Not really (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47197121)

In most, not sure if all, cases Tesla didn't buy the land for the charging station. The land owner agrees to let Tesla locate the charger for free for 5 to 10 years. Tesla pays to install and maintain the charger and pay for electricity usage. The land owner theoretically gets extra business from Tesla owners.

http://insideevs.com/tech-crunch-what-it-takes-to-be-a-tesla-supercharger-partner/

So even better than buying the land, Tesla gets to use it for free.

Re:He continues to show himself to be ... (1)

Brama (80257) | about 1 month ago | (#47196963)

'gas' stations? That will go the way of 'dialing a number', 'hanging up the phone', 'taping' a program, or even that weird non-rectangular red blob in Youtube's logo.

Re:He continues to show himself to be ... (1)

Brama (80257) | about 1 month ago | (#47196979)

YouFlat?

Re:He continues to show himself to be ... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 1 month ago | (#47197037)

'gas' stations? That will go the way of 'dialing a number', 'hanging up the phone', 'taping' a program

So, basically nowhere?

Once those become the standard word to describe something, people are very reluctant to take on the new names for it.

And I'm betting they won't for some time, because they're very entrenched in the language.

I'm not even aware of an alternate to "dialing a number", even if I haven't used a phone with a dial in years. Clicking the number sounds silly. And, let's face it, butt-clicking doesn't have the same, er, ring to it.

Re:He continues to show himself to be ... (2)

alphaminus (1809974) | about 1 month ago | (#47196713)

I'd say it's pretty smart for shareholders if the tech takes off and he sees compatible fast charging stations nationwide. Imagine is one of the early car manufacturers had held on to the patent for the gasoline nozzle, we might all be riding trains for cross country trips.

Re:He continues to show himself to be ... (1)

MindStalker (22827) | about 1 month ago | (#47196731)

Why? He will make licensing fees from each car sold. AND he can charge per KW for other cars to plug into their quick charging ports.
Little known fact, for the baseline Tesla S (the one that cost 69k), it doesn't come with free supercharging capability, but its available as an option as purchase for $2000 (its also available as a after purchase option, but probably cost more). The higher models come with supercharging standard.

Weither they sell access to their stations are $2,000 up-front of if they meter it, I don't know. I'd guess they would meter it.

Re:He continues to show himself to be ... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 1 month ago | (#47196845)

This shows him to be pro society.
From a stock holder perspective. it's a very dumb move.

Or, alternatively, he will make more money in the long run if other people invest in the infrastructure needed to charge the cars he sells.

Maybe this is like crowdsourcing, where you convince a bunch of people to help develop your product and keep all of the money for yourself -- kinda like Gracenote did with CDDB.

Sorry, but his past association with PayPal means I don't trust he has purely "pro society" motives.

Re:He continues to show himself to be ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47197249)

He is pro business all the way. That doesn't mean he isn't also pro-society, but he will not put his bottom line at risk for a pro-society move. He will promote this as an altruistic move, as any businessman would given the same circumstances, and leverage that good will to higher profits. More power to him!

Re:He continues to show himself to be ... (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about 1 month ago | (#47196853)

"From a stock holder perspective. it's a very dumb move."
Not necessarily. The biggest impediment to people buying electric cars is the lack of on road recharging. Otherwise people will need 2 cars, an electric one for the daily commute, and a gas/hybrid car for those long trips.

By Opening the charger, this does allow other electric cars to be made using the charger... However it will overall increase demand for electric cars.

Yes they will need to compete against other electric car makers, but being that there is more demand he will be able to sell more units.

More units sold more profit. Shareholders like profit and company growth.

Yes some bean counters will see this a lowering of the overall market share, but that metric is only useful in a mature peaked market, not so much for starting markets.

Re:He continues to show himself to be ... (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 1 month ago | (#47196857)

Only to the very dumb stock holders.

Honestly if anyone can not see the huge profits in setting a standard, they need to be beaten with a sack of door knobs.

Re:He continues to show himself to be ... (1)

Githaron (2462596) | about 1 month ago | (#47196873)

well, smart is relative. This shows him to be pro society. From a stock holder perspective. it's a very dumb move.

Not sure you second statement is true. By opening the patents of his super charging systems, it encourages other parties to put up more stations. This would make Teslas more enticing to prospective buyers. Sometimes, pro-society and pro-profit are not mutally exclusive.

Re:He continues to show himself to be ... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47196901)

From a stock holder perspective. it's a very dumb move.

Yeah, and the boards of Blackberry, Nokia, and HP all said, "Google is giving away their mobile OS? What idiots!"

Re:He continues to show himself to be ... (2)

jxander (2605655) | about 1 month ago | (#47196951)

Why? The Super-chargers are currently free to use. [teslamotors.com] Allegedly they will always be free.

So Musk isn't loosing any money "at the pump." Anyone who makes their own super-charger stations can't really undercut his price.

On the flip side, the more super-charger stations that spring up, the more comfortable people are in buying his car, which is where he's actually making money.

Sure, eventually another electric car company might spring up and make use of his Super-chargers ... but balance that potential loss against the gain above, and he's probably still coming out in the black.

Re:He continues to show himself to be ... (1)

rogoshen1 (2922505) | about 1 month ago | (#47197169)

With a standard for quickly charging an electric car, the cars go from "rich man's novelty" to mainstream much sooner than if it was just Tesla pushing the technology.

I'd wager that if Ford, GM, Toyota, et al started making *competitive* plug-in hybrids that also used these supercharging stations, Tesla would also sell more cars as a result. (the marketing drones would call this synergy)

Multiple car makers making semi-compatible electric cars makes the notion of the plug-in electric car far more legitimate in the eyes of consumers (IE, it's not just Tesla, and it's not a fad).

And what's to stop the Texaco's and BP's from setting up their own supercharging stations at existing gas stations? It's a win for them since they now have people with proven disposable income loitering around their convenience store for 10+ minutes.

Re:He continues to show himself to be ... (1)

desdinova 216 (2000908) | about 1 month ago | (#47196959)

not if you're looking longer (than the next quarter) term

Re:He continues to show himself to be ... (2)

Starport (2070052) | about 1 month ago | (#47196975)

What if he considers others making charging stations, compatible with Tesla, not having to build all networks himself, paving way for Tesla cars on a broader scale? That may very well turn out to be a very smart move, even for the shareholders...

Re:He continues to show himself to be ... (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | about 1 month ago | (#47197041)

well, smart is relative. This shows him to be pro society. From a stock holder perspective. it's a very dumb move.

Hardly. Having a standard recharging platform would help spur adoption of electric vehicles since the buyer of a vehicle would no longer be tied to a specific manufacturer's design and recharging stations would become more viable since they can supply variety of manufacturers; much like gasoline stations today. In short, a standard would spur adoption of electric vehicles which would help Tesla.

Re:He continues to show himself to be ... (1)

BradMajors (995624) | about 1 month ago | (#47197095)

No it is not. It is a smart move from a stock holder's perspective.

Tesla is in the business of selling cars, not charging stations. Telsa would make more money if someone else started building Tesla compatible charging stations.

Re:He continues to show himself to be ... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 1 month ago | (#47197193)

Tesla is in the business of selling cars, not charging stations.

Indeed they're not.

It sounds like he's hoping to spread around the cost of charging [yahoo.com] :

If Musk does go through with this plan, he wants the competitors to go along with Tesla's "free power for life" clause. All the electricity used to charge up a Tesla at the Superchargers is included in the (hefty) purchase price of the car.

So if other companies are making a free charging station which is also compatible with the Tesla, then Tesla makes even more money by not having to pay for the charging.

It sounds like there's some magic going on in here where the owner doesn't pay the cost of charging their car, but it gets foisted off onto everybody else (ie taxpayers) because having electric cars is such a good idea the rest of the world should pay for it.

And I'm not sure why the owners of electric cars should have their consumption subsidized, other than it helps Tesla sell more cars. If it's such a great idea, why aren't the owners getting charged? Someone is going to have to pay for that, and it will likely get applied to other products.

So you could pay more for milk in order that someone who owns a Tesla gets free charging. Which is great if you can afford to buy a Tesla, but not so great if you need to buy milk.

Re:He continues to show himself to be ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47197319)

This has nothing to do with taxpayers. It would be a cross-subsidy with other electric car companies. So if I have an electric Tesla and you have an electric Ford, I'm subsidizing you when you charge at a Tesla station and you're subsidizing me when I charge at a Ford station. Someone who doesn't own an electric car is entirely unaffected.

Re:He continues to show himself to be ... (1)

Freedom Bug (86180) | about 1 month ago | (#47197109)

It's not a dumb move at all. Electric cars are still a very immature market, there are a lot more sales to be made from expanding the market than there are by stealing them from competitors. This is an "expand the market" type move.

Re:He continues to show himself to be ... (1)

Drethon (1445051) | about 1 month ago | (#47197229)

And what stock holders like tends to screw over the company in 5-10 years...

Re:He continues to show himself to be ... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 1 month ago | (#47197253)

And what stock holders like tends to screw over the company in 5-10 years...

That long?

Stock holders are very shortsighted, and typically have little or no interest in the medium/long term outcomes for the company -- they just want the stock to go up by 25% so they can sell it to some other sucker before the bottom falls out.

Re:He continues to show himself to be ... (1)

symbolset (646467) | about 1 month ago | (#47197309)

Oh sure. This self-made South African billionaire with his own rocket fleet and car company just has no head for business. You managed to spot the obvious flaw in his plan in only seconds. Good job!

Re:He continues to show himself to be ... (1)

ericloewe (2129490) | about 1 month ago | (#47197439)

Not necessarily. It's good if it means that his customers will be able to find any charging station and plug in (like they can find any gas station and fill their tanks).

Re:He continues to show himself to be ... (1)

arisvega (1414195) | about 1 month ago | (#47197445)

From a stock holder perspective. it's a very dumb move.

.. unless it works, which will make it a very brilliant move.

Re:He continues to show himself to be ... (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 1 month ago | (#47197305)

... a very smart man.

It doesn't take a smart man to realize preventing others from building the only devices capable of charging your car is dumb. Imagine if GM held the patent to the gasoline pump and tried to charge people for building alternative pumps.

Re:He continues to show himself to be ... (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about 1 month ago | (#47197423)

You act as though that wasn't tried ... or using 'special formulas' of fuel to tie them into your fuel supply ... or even today, car makers still try to use 'special oil blends' that are required for their car ... even though they aren't, by law.

good job (0)

geekoid (135745) | about 1 month ago | (#47196599)

well done.

A cynical PR ploy (0)

Scareduck (177470) | about 1 month ago | (#47196621)

The real interesting technology is going to be in the batteries. The chargers will be a place where he would invite competition and exploration, so long as he doesn't get hit with patent trolls (the point of retaining the patent in the first place). The chargers aren't all that interesting.

Re:A cynical PR ploy (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 1 month ago | (#47196635)

There is little to no interesting technology in the batteries themselves either; they have a specially-shaped cathode IIRC, but are otherwise manufactured from COTS cells which are already commonly produced.

Re:A cynical PR ploy (2)

c0d3g33k (102699) | about 1 month ago | (#47196771)

No, cynicism is what YOU are experiencing. This seems like a profoundly optimistic act on his part.

Re:A cynical PR ploy (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about 1 month ago | (#47196797)

A cynical PR ploy

Oh fuck off. It's a good thing for everybody. Save the snide comments for people that are doing bad things.

hmmmm, seems familiar.... (1)

Thud457 (234763) | about 1 month ago | (#47197225)

A cynical PR ploy would be GM doing live demonstrations electrocuting stray dogs and rogue elephants to warn the public to the dangers of Tesla superchargers.

Re:hmmmm, seems familiar.... (2)

leonardluen (211265) | about 1 month ago | (#47197551)

The irony being that Tesla's system (AC) is now powering everyone's home, but Edison's system (DC) is powering the car named after him.

chargers (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | about 1 month ago | (#47196623)

Sooner the better, last thing we need is every car manufacturer making their own version of a charger like has happened with phones and portable gadgets.

Perhaps legislation would be the best option - one type of charger technology that is unencumbered by patents or copyrights or anything, so everyone can use it and you can find a charging station that will work with your car, even if it was built by Apple.

Re:chargers (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about 1 month ago | (#47196839)

This is one place where legislated standards would be a really bad idea. The charging process is one that benefits from every innovation that makes it a quicker or cheaper process. Companies should be allowed to change as they see fit.

Save legislated standards for situations where there is no innovation, only protectionism going on.

Re:chargers (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about 1 month ago | (#47196933)

Car charging vs your little cell phone isn't really an apt analogy.

Your cell phone charger almost always has an option where you can plug it into the standard wall socket, most have an option to plug in a standard USB port. What you are bitching about is the other end of the plug that goes into the cell phone. Now the phone may have different features that will need a special plug, (Unless you really want a data plug(s) (Digital and Analog mix?) and a power plug)

The automotive charger is like standardizing the wall socket or the usb port. So you don't need to bring around a 2-3 meter cable with a set of adapters, with power standards that could either charge your car, charge your car slowly, or cause your car to explode.

Re:chargers (1)

Firethorn (177587) | about 1 month ago | (#47197279)

Perhaps legislation would be the best option"

That would most likely end up with an ugly solution being pushed on us. For example, mandating the USB standard does reduce the number of cables, up to the point Apple wants to release it's iPad sized iPhone.

Current open standards for EV charging stations max out at 60kW, half of what Tesla's superchargers put out. Less than half given that Tesla is actually looking to increase power even more. Even the 'next update' standards only up that to 90kW for J1772. [wikipedia.org]

Tesla is being a bit like apple here, but it's pushing a truly superior standard by what I'm reading. Both higher power and more convenient to the user.

BTW, the supercharging stations Tesla have been building feature an equal number of non-propriatory charging stations - for every supercharger there's a J1772 connection, at least at some sites.

Makes prescient business sense for Tesla. (4, Insightful)

OldHawk777 (19923) | about 1 month ago | (#47196629)

Elon Musk wants more quick refuel infrastructure on the interstates and local roads/cities, which will advance Tesla's and others electric cars. This is not controversial but does provide probable wider support for Tesla's collection of electric car products, patents, and parts. Open up the designs for Tesla Supercharger systems — the free fast-charging stations designed to quickly refuel electric cars — creating an ISO/OASIS standard for other car makers to use makes prescient business sense.

Re:Makes prescient business sense for Tesla. (1)

amiga3D (567632) | about 1 month ago | (#47196687)

He could most likely see the danger of Ford/Chevy/Nissan/Toyota and all the other big boys getting together to design their own and then charging fees to the small companies like Tesla to use it too. I'm surprised no one has jumped to lock out the small fry yet.

Re:Makes prescient business sense for Tesla. (1)

ganjadude (952775) | about 1 month ago | (#47197083)

look at all the states where the dealer network is doing everything they can to kill tesla off by not allowing them to even sell their cars in those states. They did the same thing to Studebaker and a lesser extent delorean.

they dont want any more competition simple as that

Re:Makes prescient business sense for Tesla. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47197161)

They already do have a standard and its much slower to fill your battery up. Great move on Tesla's part, establish the new fast standard. That said, I wouldn't be surprised to see most other automakers just ignore it (or as you said come up with their own standard - they've done this once already the Leaf had a fast charging standard and GM/Co. decided to make one up themselves).

Re:Makes prescient business sense for Tesla. (1)

Firethorn (177587) | about 1 month ago | (#47197299)

I'm surprised no one has jumped to lock out the small fry yet.

Chademo and J1772 are apparently in quite the fight right now, while Tesla forges ahead with it's superior propriatory solution.

The problem with 'locking out the small fry' is that:
1. There's effectively no small fry around yet
2. The base is too fragile as of yet to seriously try it. Right now it's more profitable to share stations.

Re:Makes prescient business sense for Tesla. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47197405)

Well, there was just this a few years ago. The major (not Tesla) car cos did agree on a standard for plug-in chargers, but that took some effort to get past NIH syndrome.

What a great idea! (5, Insightful)

bennomatic (691188) | about 1 month ago | (#47196651)

1. Build an electric car that's heads and shoulders above the competition.
2. Build an innovative charging infrastructure to allow for long distance driving.
3. Open up the technology for that charging infrastructure so that gas stations and the like can start getting in on the action and making some profit.
4. With charging infrastructure becoming ubiquitous, that takes away many people's concerns about buying your car.
5. Also, with charging infrastructure becoming ubiquitous, that may encourage other auto manufacturers to move past compliance cars and actually start selling quality vehicles.
6. Tout competition's success as your own success, as it's built on your platform. Competition isn't only good PR in this context, but it carries with it the subtext that electric cars are a product category that is here to stay.

To some degree, I still like the idea of plug-in hybrids for the time being. But if this "open supercharger" thing is as successful as I think it's going to be, there could be a sea change in the consumer automotive market.

Re:What a great idea! (2)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 1 month ago | (#47196877)

Plug-in diesel hybrids would probably be better, especially with an all-electric drive train.

An all-electric drive train allows a light diesel engine to run in its most efficient operating range continuously, under variable load. The engine could be a single-piston diesel pegged to 200RPM, getting more fuel when the battery charge is below 85% and when there is current draw by the motor.. The increased load (by charging or supplying power) would require more torque output for the engine to maintain 200RPM, hence more fuel. When the motor is drawing power, the engine supplements the battery; when the motor draws less power (or none), the engine charges the battery.

This setup allows for plug-in charging, as well as high density fuel usage. We can use excess capacity at hydroelectric dams, solar plants, and wind farms to generate diesel fuel, both direct from air and by fermented waste, e.g, grease fryer oil, corn stalks, or wood pulp. This provides a zero-emission hydrocarbon fuel source which we can pipeline across the country. Combustible waste can go straight into a Fischer-Tropsch process used for gas-to-liquid or coal-to-liquid in modern applications.

These conversions have high amounts of loss, but are suitable for reclamation. Hydro plants dump millions of gallons of water without power generation when under-utilized; wind farms and solar plants ground their production. Even at 50% efficiency, conversion into fuel provides a valuable commodity.

Re:What a great idea! (1)

dkf (304284) | about 1 month ago | (#47197283)

This setup allows for plug-in charging, as well as high density fuel usage.

At a cost of quite a lot of complexity and weight. That might be justifiable, but it sure isn't free.

Re:What a great idea! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47197311)

This provides a zero-emission hydrocarbon fuel source which we can pipeline across the country. Combustible waste can go straight into a Fischer-Tropsch process used for gas-to-liquid or coal-to-liquid in modern applications.

Anytime you burn anything you produce emissions, specifically CO2 and usually NOx and SO2 to boot. What you do get the benefit from is no longer paying for extraction and refinement of petroleum.

Re: What a great idea! (1)

technosaurus (1704630) | about 1 month ago | (#47197349)

Stirling engine would work just as well but more efficiently... Warm-up times prevented their use in the past but that was before hybrids.  They are more efficient than getting it from an outlet and can burn nearly any fuel.

The future research is mostly in battery but a Stirling engine with a better drive train would be worth looking into.

Think of a maglev train wrapped around a circular track except the train is the tire (actually probably more like a "twheel") and the rail is the "motor".
http://contest.techbriefs.com/2013/entries/transportation-and-automotive/3911

This would make for an incredibly smooth ride, extremely high speeds, independent traction control and many other benefits.

It doesn't even need to be maglev, a simple AC motor where the rotor and stator are swapped and controlled by DC powered SCRs (or whatever) would be fine for non-luxury models.

Re:What a great idea! (1)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | about 1 month ago | (#47196905)

> To some degree, I still like the idea of plug-in hybrids for the time being

Especially when the hybrid is this:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/electric-car-with-massive-range-in-demo-by-phinergy-alcoa-1.2664653

Take a Tesla S. Remove 2/3rds of the li-ion. Add one of these. Car loses 500 lbs. One-way range increases to ~1600 km. Refuelling for short trips is about 5 minutes. Longer ones takes a swap, just like now.

Interesting, but... (3, Insightful)

necro81 (917438) | about 1 month ago | (#47196673)

This should be interesting, and should spur some development,

but...

I doubt that you could use a Tesla-like Supercharger to charge a battery other than one made by Tesla. I'm not talking about DRM, I'm talking about the architecture of the battery pack itself - its charging characteristics, its safety features, its cooling system, and so on down to the level of the individual 18650 cells. Those aspects are still heavily protected - licensing and manufacturing the packs and powertrain is a side business for Tesla. So what looks like a move to open up the world could, like other standards, become a way to lock in a particular proprietary design.

I still think it's pretty cool, though. If it sheds more light on how Tesla has designed and constructed their pack, which is a fine technology, as well as directly showing ways to charge Li-Ion packs quickly, then I think this is a benefit to anyone interested in how electricity is used and stored (i.e., everyone). But I also like to keep in mind that Musk, for all his altruism, is still a capitalist and wants his vision of the future to be the one to succeed.

Re:Interesting, but... (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 1 month ago | (#47196741)

You supply voltage and heavy-gauge wire. The car decides what to do with that.

Electricity isn't a networking standard; it's part of the laws of physics.

Re:Interesting, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47196777)

Voltage you say....what voltage? AC or DC? And how am I meant to plug this in? Via some sort of plug and socket right? And how much draw can I put on this wire safely?

Sounds a lot like something that needs a standard.

Re:Interesting, but... (1)

Aighearach (97333) | about 1 month ago | (#47197077)

The idea is to open it up to engineers at other companies, not to have people who can't read the manual trying to build public charging stations out of lego.

Re:Interesting, but... (2)

ehud42 (314607) | about 1 month ago | (#47197341)

I doubt that you could use a Tesla-like Supercharger to charge a battery other than one made by Tesla. I'm not talking about DRM, I'm talking about the architecture of the battery pack itself - its charging characteristics, its safety features, its cooling system, and so on down to the level of the individual 18650 cells.

Disclaimer: I know nothing about the Tesla Supercharger.

But I do know generally how chargers work - specifically multi-cell lithium chargers. Each cell requires a charge management circuit. I don't think the Supercharger actively manages the cell level charging. It is highly unlikely that given 10s or 100s of cells in a Tesla pack that there is going to be anything other than voltage, current and maybe a serial data line for that can be used for metering and financial charging.

As long as my car can handle the voltage, draws an appropriate amount of current and (possibly) provides some identification for payment or statistics, I can take that power and charge 18650's, NiCds, SLAs, caps or just run a big stereo for a block party. At some point there may be a $/kWh bill in the mail, but otherwise, the charging station is most likely battery tech agnostic.

Re:Interesting, but... (1)

ericloewe (2129490) | about 1 month ago | (#47197545)

All you have to do on the charging side is supply power in a certain standard way (AC vs. DC, high voltage vs. high current) and let the car decide how much current to pull. A standard interface between charger and battery controller is also important, otherwise there's a need to drop down to lowest common denominator charging (kinda like incompatible USB charging standards).

sniff sniff (-1, Troll)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 1 month ago | (#47196677)

Methinks I detect a whiff of desperation.

I love this guy. Bromance all the way. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47196695)

Who doesn't love this guy? Other than the lazy, crooked competitors he's chipping away at?

nice gesture (1)

afidel (530433) | about 1 month ago | (#47196699)

It's a nice gesture but AFAIK none of the other currently available designs can handle the amount of current that supercharger provides. Perhaps in 3-5 years when the other auto companies revamp their existing lineup with new designs they might decide to design around the supercharger 'standard' but I'm not holding my breath.

Re:nice gesture (3, Insightful)

BasilBrush (643681) | about 1 month ago | (#47196899)

There's two sides to it. Other cars that can recharge from Tesla supercharger, and third party charging stations that can supercharge Tesla cars. Both are good for Musk's company.

Re:nice gesture (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47197113)

It's a nice gesture but AFAIK none of the other currently available designs can handle the amount of current that supercharger provides. Perhaps in 3-5 years when the other auto companies revamp their existing lineup with new designs they might decide to design around the supercharger 'standard' but I'm not holding my breath.

Why does a supercharger have to supply X current? It supplies a voltage and a max current to the car. Let the car decide what to do with it.

This is a great way to get an industry standard worked out. As a manufacturer of electric cars, that's clearly in Tesla's interests. Right now, there's not a "standard" for charging electrical cars, other than maybe NEMA 5-15 and a Home Depot extension cord, which isn't going to charge cars very fast.

Re:nice gesture (1)

afidel (530433) | about 1 month ago | (#47197389)

Actually there's Automotive Engineers (SAE) standard J1772. In Europe, the standard is IEC 61851. The big deal is that the Tesla supercharger is a Type 3 device under the SAE standard and that allows up to 600V DC at up to 400A with a serial connection to setup the options (IEC 61851-4 mode 4 will probably be similar but 1000V DC at 400A) and AFAIK there's no other type 3/mode 4 devices out there right now and none of the other EV's would be able to handle the massive currents needed to take that kind of charging.

Phrasing (1)

killhour (3468583) | about 1 month ago | (#47196703)

I like to imagine that Musk invented the world's best supercharger and is staring at it like "How the hell am I going to put this in an electric car?"

Beating the Chicken-or-Egg Problem (3, Insightful)

Irate Engineer (2814313) | about 1 month ago | (#47196793)

Electric cars are not ubiquitous because range and ability to charge is a concern. Charging stations are not ubiquitous because electric cars are not ubiquitous.

Gasoline automobiles were able to take off when they were invented because the liquid fuel infrastructure was in largely in place prior to their invention. Kerosene for lamps was distributed by metered pumps that were easily converted to dispense gasoline.

Establishing a standard charging station would allow companies to make the investment in charging infrastructure, confident that it would be widely applicable to different vehicles and would not disappear overnight. When you can pull into the CircleK and purchase a few kWh of juice while grabbing a burrito, that's when electric cars will really take off.

Re:Beating the Chicken-or-Egg Problem (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 1 month ago | (#47196819)

Incorrect. the Model S has the range that will satisfy 99% of drivers. The problem is that it's ungodly expensive.

Re:Beating the Chicken-or-Egg Problem (1)

dbc (135354) | about 1 month ago | (#47196917)

Well, range is still a concern. I drove to a convention where two Tesla-owning friends also went. I lisented to their discussion about how to manage the range issue of driving to a place that is just beyond a single charge, how they had to plan their recharging stop, how it limited their choices for a lunch break. None of us gasoliine vehicle drivers had that discussion. So it is still not only a concern, they find range interesting dinner conversation. Range is getting better, surely, but stll is above the "have to think about it" threshold.

Re:Beating the Chicken-or-Egg Problem (1)

Aighearach (97333) | about 1 month ago | (#47197149)

Lots of people with ICE cars talk about where to buy gas, and which place is least out of the way, and which place is close to somewhere good for lunch.

At conventions probably a lot of people are expensing their gas though, so they wouldn't talk about it even if they normally do, because they'd just stop at the place that is convenient to the freeway and 50 cents higher.

If you look at a map of charging stations, cities that have both charging stations and are big enough to have a convention center usually have numerous charging stations. Even small-town Oregon has lots of charging stations, and most of them are near lunch spots. And since charging is free that switches the main topic from the price/convenience tradeoff, over to who is next to the best lunch spot.

Re:Beating the Chicken-or-Egg Problem (1)

dbc (135354) | about 1 month ago | (#47197427)

The issue was not charging stations at either end, it was the dearth in between. You can go ahead and pretend that charging stations are as ubiquitous as gas stations, but they are not. In some places, like my neighborhood, they are more than sufficient. Out of town, not so much. Anyway, go ahead and believe what you want -- I gave you two data points. You gave me zero, and some arm waving. I am *not* anti electric car, we're shopping for a Leaf, and two neighbors have Leafs. This is a great town in which to own a Leaf. But I stand by my assertion -- road trips with an electric car require advanced planning with respect to recharging, where as a road trip in an ICE vehicle largely does not require advanced planning with respect to refueling.

And is charging really free in small-town Oregon? Here, many of the charge stations, including those in employer parking lots, are debit-card activiated.

Re:Beating the Chicken-or-Egg Problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47197487)

Lots of people with ICE cars talk about where to buy gas,

And lots more don't. I don't care if there's a place to get lunch around where I get my gas because and I'm not stranded there for hours waiting for the tank to refuel.

Re:Beating the Chicken-or-Egg Problem (1)

ganjadude (952775) | about 1 month ago | (#47197205)

interesting, so we could see new towns/ infrastructure built around electric car range?

Re:Beating the Chicken-or-Egg Problem (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about 1 month ago | (#47196931)

So were ICE cars to start with. It took 50 years or so before they become affordable by average people. It's not going to take as long this time.

Re:Beating the Chicken-or-Egg Problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47196971)

But the Nissan Leaf is more affordable, with a small (~85 miles) range. For a lot of the trips I do, that rules it out. But I'm not adverse to stopping at the 70 mile point to juice up; if I could confidently get to the 3 or 4 places in the 140 mile radius which I go to regularly on the weekends with only one stop I'd put a Leaf on my list of cars to look at when replacement time rolls around. As it is, though, they aren't what I need. Maybe if I were a normal commuter.

Re:Beating the Chicken-or-Egg Problem (1)

Firethorn (177587) | about 1 month ago | (#47197331)

When you can pull into the CircleK and purchase a few kWh of juice while grabbing a burrito, that's when electric cars will really take off.

Given the ability to charge at home, without even needing to visit the CircleK, as well as the large numbers of absolutely free charging stations, I'd say that EVs will take off when the average price drops enough to avoid sticker shock* while and battery capacity(buffered by high speed charging/battery swaps) climbs enough to overcome range anxiety. The Nissan Leaf isn't high enough ranged to avoid range anxiety, and the Model S still gives sticker shock.

That being said, visits to 'convenience' stores are typically too short to really benefit from charging. I see sit down restaurants, malls, and superstores benefitting more.

*Batteries costing 1/4-1/3rd of what they do now will help; I've read that Tesla probably already has the cheapest batteries per kWh by a considerable margin, and the Gigafactory is an attempt to cut even that in half.

Re:Beating the Chicken-or-Egg Problem (1)

CaptainLard (1902452) | about 1 month ago | (#47197493)

Gasoline automobiles were able to take off when they were invented because the liquid fuel infrastructure was in largely in place prior to their invention. Kerosene for lamps was distributed by metered pumps that were easily converted to dispense gasoline.

Electricity for lamps is distributed by metered circuits that can easily be converted to dispense the correct voltage and amperage that a supercharger needs. The problem here is the inertia and lethargy from 100 years worth of gasoline powered cars. Both the chicken and the egg already exist.

Tesla == ARM (2, Interesting)

tekrat (242117) | about 1 month ago | (#47196801)

Tesla isn't just a car company, they are a technology firm. The *real* value of Tesla (hence the stock price) is in the technology they own and control.

If Teslas chargers become "the standard", then the rest of the world will likely have to license Tesla's other technology to be compatible. This is akin to; anyone can build an ARM-based chip, but you have to license that right from the ARM group, which makes their stock (currently) more valuable then Intels.

Tesla running gear may also become the defacto standard for electric cars, and once the price drops, near unbiquitous -- which will make Musk extremely wealthy. Tesla won't have to make cars anymore, simply license the tech to everyone else to build.

They then can pour that money into more R&D and build even better and better running gear which in turn, all other manufacturers will need to license to keep up with the competition.... Which of course, will keep them very wealthy.

Re:Tesla == ARM (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47197297)

Intel's(NASDAQ:INTC) market capitalisation is currently:$139 Billion
ARM's(LON:ARM) market capitalisation is currently:$14 Billion+(NASDAQ:ARMH):$21 Total:$35 Billion

So ARM is currently worth about 25% as much as Intel and as such ARM's stock is NOT more valuable than Intel's.

Note:The above is only correct if Intel and ARM are not listed on any more exchanges.

Holy cow! (3, Funny)

Lumpy (12016) | about 1 month ago | (#47196809)

"It was also the only car to ever receive a 99 out of 10 from Consumer Reports"

The Mode S is so good that it broke the scale by a factor of 10!

The most sense he has made ever (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47196991)

Gas is gas.

Electricity needs to be electricity. There can't be "Telsa" electricity and "everyone else" electricity. People have to be able to pull into any charging station with any car. He knows this, and he also knows that attempting to create a "walled garden" of charging would be the end of him and his company.

By doing this now, he gets to look like a hero when in reality his aspirations of a Tesla-only charging grid have failed spectacularly.

Keep it up, Elon. (2)

Dega704 (1454673) | about 1 month ago | (#47196995)

This general attitude is why Tesla is such a disruptive force, and why the rest of the automotive market and their ilk hate them. I for one am happy to see the status quo get genuinely threatened for a change.

Re:Keep it up, Elon. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47197509)

why the rest of the automotive market and their ilk hate them

Why am I picturing an annoying ad with a picture of Musk and a caption reading, "Car Manufacturers HATE HIM!"?

refuel? (1)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | about 1 month ago | (#47197079)

the free fast-charging stations designed to quickly refuel Tesla's electric cars

Sure, if electrons are "fuel".

So Gingrich is wrong (1)

blue trane (110704) | about 1 month ago | (#47197483)

So Gingrich is wrong when he asserts that patents fuel innovation, in drugs for example.

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