11-28-07 by dugan
Exxon just announced its development of a Holy Grail for electric cars, a technology to make lithium ion batteries bigger and more powerful without overheating, even bursting into flames. Here’s a thought on that, triggered by my colleague Bulldog Simpson’s work to tear down patent fees that inhibit stem cell research: Exxon could use this to put real money into its pledge to switch from denying global warming to preventing it.
How about free technology licenses to commercially develop the application (a heat-resistant film to separate the batteries’ positive and negative electrodes)? What a PR coup it would be, with no hint of greenwashing attached. Instead of being accused of killing electric cars (an accusation I’ve never fully bought into), Big Oil could be their next-generation good guy. Assuming, of course, that the technology is all that Exxon expects it to be.
Instead of charging every penny that a developing market will bear (which is not much at GM these days), Exxon could extract a pledge from commercial users to price their products lower by an amount commensurate with the unpaid licensing fee. It’d be hard to enforce, but what a gesture. Exxon could also offer the technology equivalent of open-source software. Put the invention out there and invite others to tinker without fear of patent infringement.