Photo: by Hector Garcia, Flickr

By Jean Lee

It’s not unlike Tesla to take the road less traveled.

Since its beginnings as a startup electric car company in the midst of a historically gasoline-powered industry, Tesla has continued to gain widespread attention for its unconventional approaches — and is now turning heads from both the tech and automotive worlds.

According to a June 12 company blog post from CEO Elon Musk, Tesla has made their patents — all several hundred of them — ‘open source’, meaning other car companies now have access to Tesla patents and can use their technology as long as it’s “in good faith.”  The reasons? To advance electric vehicle technology, reduce competition from the “flood” of gasoline cars, and promote a “common, rapidly-evolving technology platform” for the world’s benefit.

During a June 14 press conference, Musk stressed the importance of innovation and how it is often lost because of the patent process, mentioning how the patent system may need reform. He also stated that Tesla will still continue to make patents, and said the number will ultimately increase to several thousand over time.

This move is largely unprecedented for automakers, yet is actually more prevalent in the tech industry. However, tech companies have had their share of controversies involving patents — such as in the battle of patent lawsuits between Apple and Samsung, as Musk pointed out during the conference.

“Who’s really benefiting there?” Musk asked. “It seems like they’re both losing.”

Tesla is notably tied to Silicon Valley, both in ideals and location. Its headquarters are in Palo Alto and its factory in Fremont, both located pretty far from their counterparts in Detroit.

Tesla’s appeal to the local workforce was recently seen when the company scheduled a job fair at their Fremont factory, which attracted hundreds of job seekers and caused major blockage on the I-880, thus triggering a response from the Fremont police department.

Tesla’s job fair is closed for today. We urge those who we were unable to interview to go to and apply online.

–Tesla Motors (@TeslaMotors) May 3, 2014

Even with Tesla’s growing success — its stock puts its total capitalization at around $25 billion and it’s now more than four other car companies — it has hardly made a dent in the overall number of cars that are manufactured, and electric cars in general make up less than 1 percent of the global fleet of cars, which is around 2 billion.

Currently, it is “impossible for Tesla to build electric cars fast enough to address the carbon crisis,” said Musk.

However, some critics believe that switching to electric cars isn’t the solution when it comes to the environment.

“The notion that jumping into electric vehicles is okay is a problem in itself,” said Al Weinrub, coordinator at Local Clean Energy Alliance based in Oakland. He noted how promoting electric vehicles helps the electric vehicle industry, but is just another way of selling cars.

Weinrub suggested that getting off of vehicles period and reducing the number of roads that are constructed are more environmentally beneficial decisions. He explained that vehicles — whether gas or electric — emit carbon every time they’re manufactured, shipped, and purchased.

“The electric car itself is not a solution to any problem,” said Weinrub, “but it could be a part of a broader solution.”