Since it was founded in 2004, Proterra has become one of the biggest names in zero-emission bus design in the world. Last year, Fortune Magazine went so far as to call the company the Tesla of electric buses. According to Bloomberg BNA, the company currently controls about 80 percent of the U.S. market for electric buses. You can find Proterra’s electric buses in cities all over the country – from Seattle to Reno to Nashville.
What distinguishes Proterra from its competitors isn’t just its commitment to electric vehicles; it’s the company’s proprietary rapid-charging technology that allows their buses to be recharged in as little as 10 minutes. This technology has alleviated one of the chief concerns many transit authorities have had about electric buses in the past – namely, the equipment downtime necessitated by long charging times. With Proterra’s overhead charging system, its buses can recharge quickly at stops and operate all day long. Now, in an effort to encourage other industries to adopt electric vehicles, Proterra has announced that it will make three of the patents on its fast-charging system open to the public.
“We really want to stay focused on perfecting electric vehicles for the transit bus industry,” said Proterra CEO Ryan Popple in an interview with Fortune. “One of the ways we can help other entities not have to reinvent the wheel or reinvent the charger, is to open this up, provide information, and supplier access and let other companies go after applications that really aren’t core to us or our customers.”
This isn’t the first time companies in the alternative fuel market have made their technologies open source. In the past, both Toyota and Tesla have released electric vehicle patents to the public. In doing so, they hope to foster further competition and innovation in the electric vehicle market, and ease concerns about electric vehicles that have been perpetuated by gas companies. Releasing proprietary technology to competitors might seem counterintuitive from a business standpoint, but in fact it could be good for all of these companies in the long run.