Tesla got patents?

Tesla got patents?

Have they filed any patents for any of its design like the underbelly battery pack positioning, drive train, the large center console, etc? After watching the ongoing Samsung/Apple epic patent battle over what seems like trivial matters, it seems like a good idea for Tesla to patent everything that is unique in Model S. I was reading that the Honda Fit Electric already has its battery pack positioned just like in Model S, for super low CG.

BYT | August 14, 2012

Coda as well!

Timo | August 14, 2012

I don't think ideas can be patented, only devices. Battery pack positioning is idea, battery pack connections would be device.

pvenkate | August 14, 2012

Timo: Checkout the kind of things Apple and Samsung are fighting about. Most of them are ideas and some are silly things like the shape of the icons, etc.

The low CG achieved by the ingenious battery positioning is what makes the Model S ride seem so awesome (no body roll, excellent road grip, etc). I think its a key idea that should be patented, if not already. Otherwise there are no barriers for entry.

BYT | August 14, 2012

You can argue that the skateboard design with no car body on top of it is the device otherwise? Very real, just slap an accelerator, steering wheel and lawn chair to that and you have the most awesome go cart of all time!

NotTarts | August 15, 2012

The Nissan Leaf also has the battery mounted under the car, like so:

Obviously not nearly as elegantly integrated as the Model S but the basic principle is the same and the Leaf came to the market 2 years earlier.

Volker.Berlin | August 15, 2012

pvenkate, to use Steve Jobs' words: "and, boy, have we patented it!" You can rest assured that Tesla has patented as much as they could while developing the Model S. They hold hundreds of patents, and have many more pending, at least that's what Elon says when asked in an interview.

BYT | August 15, 2012
BYT | August 15, 2012

And this covers the batteries in the base specifically:

Brian H | August 15, 2012

In the 10-Q financials, the final sections, "ITEM 3. QUANTITATIVE AND QUALITATIVE DISCLOSURES ABOUT MARKET RISK" have extensive discussion, mostly in general formal accounting terminology, about patent risks.

Challenges, varying jurisdictions, etc. are all mentioned.

IMO, the collaborative approach TM is taking, essentially trying to make it easier and more economical to license and contract with them rather than either break a patent or duplicate its facilities and research, is likely to pay off. That's the bet it's making, in any case.

Timo | August 15, 2012

hmm... I stand corrected, apparently you can patent ideas. However when "idea" is obvious enough that anybody can "invent" it it should not be patentable. Should I patent wheel? I just invented it (about zillionth time).

For "flat touchscreen with rounded edges" Apple patent, that should not exist at all. Anybody who tries to make touchscreen-only mobile phone ends up having near-exactly same design: flat, slim, rounded edges, about palm-sized but narrower.

Same applies to Tesla design for major scale: battery in middle under the floor (creates low point of gravity and centers the mass creating better handling), motor between wheels (takes least space there). This is a design that cannot be "intellectual property" because anybody thinking about it ends up more or less same conclusion.

Volker.Berlin | August 15, 2012

I stand corrected, apparently you can patent ideas. (Timo)

Depends on legislation. There are some substantial differences between what can or cannot patented in Europe vs. USA.

This is a design that cannot be "intellectual property" because anybody thinking about it ends up more or less same conclusion. (Timo)

It is extremely hard to draw the line there because after the fact, the best ideas look simple and obvious and yet no one has had that idea before.

bsimoes | August 15, 2012

Authors run into this problem. Where does a plot idea end and a novel(!) thought begin? There are always lawsuits over people stealing plot outlines, yet how many new story structures are there? Car design seems a bit more straight-forward, yet it still seems murky.

Brian H | August 15, 2012

There's specific wording relating to "prior art" etc. which has to be satisfied. This leads to all sorts of peculiar wording in the patents themselves, too. Sometimes stuff gets thru due to the sheer ignorance of the patent office.

A big controversy is patented genes. Existing genes, discovered and replicated. Theoretically, many of your genes are the property of biomed companies right now.

At least they'll expire in 17 yrs or so. But if you replicate yourself or reproduce before then ...


Brian H | August 15, 2012

Keep in mind that the theoretical purpose of patents is to make ideas and devices widely available (after a minimal reasonable delay) by making the patent sufficiently specific that anyone "skilled in the (relevant) art" can reproduce it. Part of the reason for requiring submission of actual prototypes.

Those wanting to truly remain exclusive for as long as possible often thus don't patent, just rely on secrecy. Reverse engineering is their enemy.

Often, it's just "time" for an invention. The car, phone, radio, etc. were multiply invented. Bell, Marconi, etc. just won "footraces" to the patent office.

Tiebreaker | August 20, 2012

Tesla, not Marconi.

teddyg | November 21, 2012

Sorry to bring up an old thread but was going through some of the Tesla patent applications and came across this:

Looks like they are planning on using a metal(lithium?)-air battery paired with a standard lithium ion battery.

I guess the lithium-air battery is much lighter (much lower kg/kWh ratio...only problem is that you can't draw power (discharge) as fast from a lithium-air battery as you can a lithium-ion battery.

So are they planning on using the lithium-ion battery for large draw situations (acceleration, passing, etc) and the lithium-air for more steady (maintain your speed - highway driving)...all depends on the rate of draw needed for certain applications really...of course I have no idea, but Tesla will have compiled A LOT of data regarding draw rates on the Roadster and Model S.

Guess the idea would be to store most of the energy in the lighter lithium-air battery and have enough in the lithium-ion battery to handle the large draw situations.

Hmmm...just blew my own mind but...maybe the lithium-ion battery does ALL the actual discharge work but is constantly being trickle charged by the lithium-air battery?

Can batteries be charged and discharged at the same time? I guess so because I am using my cellphone right now as it is plugged into the charger.

Is this old news??? Haven't heard this anywhere as of yet. Seems pretty revolutionary to me.

Looks like JB Straubel is on the patent.

teddyg | November 21, 2012

Hope somebody can comment on this!!!

jbunn | November 22, 2012

Years down the road. Lithium air is not out of the lab, so far as I know, let alone automotive grade. I'd say check back in five years.

Brian H | November 22, 2012

capacitors are used in some applications that way, with almost instant response times, very high charge/discharge rates. Buffer for fast charge/discharge situations.

I guess you could still use them; layers with the high power density ones on the "outer" layer, energy densest ones on the innermost.

DouglasR | November 22, 2012

Companies file all sorts of patent applications they never expect to use. They do it defensively. I wouldn't hold my breath on this one.

EcLectric | November 22, 2012

From what I read, Elon studied super caps in college with an eye toward using them to power cars. So far, caps don't have the energy density to provide the required range. If we don't find a single technology with both high energy density and high power density, we will probably end up with a high energy density battery driving super caps, which will drive the motor. This is advantageous because regen can go directly into the caps, which can charge and discharge millions of times without being degraded like batteries.

Brian H | November 22, 2012

I think capacitors would help mainly with surges. Any caps big enough to accept much regen would be very bulky.

teddyg | November 22, 2012

Not so sure JBunn...the book I am reading says that Lithium Air in terms of charging is ready to go...they are just struggling with the discharge rates...if Tesla uses a lithium air the way they have put in the patent then they may not be as far off as you think in terms of getting this into a car. Guess we will see.
just surprised nobody has discussed this before.

Brian H | November 22, 2012

We have. Charge per kg. isn't the issue; it's SIZE. Not many kg. per m^2. You, 1 passenger, and your 85kWh lithium air battery fill your Model S ...

teddyg | November 22, 2012

??? From what I read Lithium air has best kWh/kg ratio that can ever be hoped for in any battery...i know IBM has been working flat out on lithium air for at least 5 would think Tesla might be testing some of thus stuff by now.

Timo | November 23, 2012

Brian H noted that problem is not specific energy (Wh/kg) but energy density (Wh/L). To contain enough energy to be useful that battery needs to be BIG. It's still light, but it takes a lot more space than current batteries. Power density is another problem, so there are two problems to solve.

Brian H | November 23, 2012

You're not following. Kg is mass. VOLUME is what I'm referring to. Air takes up a lot of SPACE. Lithium-air batteries are light, but BIG. Bigger than cars can accommodate.

EcLectric | November 23, 2012

Yeah teddyg, if we use Lithium air, we would have to carry a giant bag of air around with us to feed the battery! Too bad we don't live on a planet that is covered with air. Hey, wait a minute...

Brian H | November 23, 2012

The air problem is in the airspace inside the batteries. Doh.

Tiebreaker | November 23, 2012

@EcLectric - Unfortunately, it is true: we do need to carry a bag of air, it is the air inside the batteries that is in direct contact with the cathode. That makes the Li-air batteries both lightweight and bulky. Then we need to move the used air out, and move fresh air in. Like in an ICE: air filters, compressors, air hoses...

But it is promising. IBM estimates production will start between 2020 and 2030... lots of things may change in the meantime...

And - bummer - will not be able to drive a Model S on Mars...

Tiebreaker | November 23, 2012

(Brian H beat me to a click :-) )

jerry3 | November 23, 2012

Tiebreaker -- And - bummer - will not be able to drive a Model S on Mars...

Sure you can:

Brian H | November 23, 2012

As far as driving anything on Mars -- what do you do with the heat? The atmosphere is 1% Earth's pressure & density, and even liquid cooling ends at the radiator. There'd have to be radiative cooling: maybe big red hot tail fins? Or else stick to a few days per mile like the Rovers and Curiosity.

teddyg | November 23, 2012

Not sure about this either...looks like there are a lot of patents in conjunction to the one I found regarding the "venting" of metal-air batteries. Not sure why Tesla would do this as they are not in the battery business (as far as we know anyway). But maybe they think they could modify a supplier's lithium-air battery and make it work?
Long shot I know...but it's nice to dream that we might hit the magic "500 mile per charge" number sooner rather than later...we will get there eventually anyway.

jerry3 | November 23, 2012


I thought that Mars was about the temperature of Antarctica on a warm day and generally much colder. Also I'd expect that you would be driving inside the terraforming domes, not outside in the Martian atmosphere.

David70 | November 23, 2012

"There'd have to be radiative cooling: maybe big red hot tail fins?"

Fortunately, aerodynamic drag would be much lower.

Timo | November 23, 2012

Unfortunately so would be grip too. Mass doesn't disappear, but weight does, so cornering would really suck.

@teddyg, those 500+Wh/kg batteries have more than twice the capacity of Model S batteries, and if Model S gets 265miles / charge you have your 500+ miles in just couple of years using just traditional batteries.

pilotSteve | November 23, 2012

The only was electric, powered by silver-zinc potassium hydroxide batteries. Range (not sure which EAP cycle was used....) was 57 miles (92km).

Of interest: "The first cost-plus-incentive-fee contract to Boeing was for $19,000,000 and called for delivery of the first LRV by 1 April 1971. Cost overruns, however, led to a final cost of $38,000,000"!

pilotSteve | November 23, 2012

^^ messed up my post ^^ .... The only vehicle drive on the moon was the lunar rover.

Brian H | November 23, 2012

Hm, an MS with wire-mesh wheels and outriggers (for turns). Need a lot of elbow room!

Tiebreaker | November 24, 2012

@jerry3 - LOL, matching color too. Has to be a classic non-metal-air Model S.

Brian H | November 24, 2012

Just thinking, with the lower gravity and thinner air, the MS would be way over-powered! You'd get dangerous air time on every lump, bump, and hill. Probably need big 45° spoilers on front and rear for downforce and traction.