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Electric vehicle openness is patently a good idea

In the cut-throat world of developing new technologies, securing intellectual property against rivals and ‘patent trolls’ keeps inventors up at night - but in a move distinctly against this grain, electric car manufacturer Tesla has opened up its patent book for everyone else to use.

While the effects of this move are likely to be far-reaching and clearly positive in the medium and long-term battle against climate change – it’s far from being entirely altruistic. As New Scientist cannily observes, it’s a move that aims to take on the real rivals of electric vehicles (EVs): not other companies in that sector, but the conventional petrol or diesel engine. With greater take-up of EVs, so increases the demand for charging networks – something Tesla have rather a lot of expertise in.

But that’s not to downplay what a game-changer this could be. It looks like it might have had near-instant effects, with Nissan and BMW seeming set to collaborate with Tesla on standardising charging technology. The companies deny it’s directly related, but it’s hard to see how such collaboration might work without all of them being quite literally on the same page. Certainly, meetings will have been made a lot smoother by this show of openness.

It’s not entirely peace and harmony in the electricity-powered transport world, though. Tesla and UK electricity supplier, Ecotricity are at loggerheads over the future of the UK’s EV charging network; a row which threatens to make the courts. Chinese billionaire Lu Guanqiu is also making plans to challenge Tesla’s prominent position in the global EV market. Perhaps a bit of competition, and some collaboration will work out as the ideal formula for consumers? Time will tell.

What’s unquestionably true is that businesses, charities, NGOs, housing associations and universities still have a chance to be part of our Plugged-in Fleets Initiative for free EV fleet consultation and infrastructure advice. It’s a good time to be thinking about going electric.

Gary Hartley is Energy Saving Trust's expert blogger. He has extensive experience researching and writing on a number of topics, with particular expertise in sustainable energy, policy, literature and sport. As well as providing regular blog content, Gary has also been published in numerous magazines and journals.

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