Elon Musk and Tesla may do something fairly controversial with their electric car patents like release some of them

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, in expressing surprise other automakers haven’t made big commitments to electric cars, said Tuesday he’s thinking of doing something “fairly controversial” regarding the company’s patents. The surprising statement made at Tesla’s shareholder meeting raised questions about whether he may be thinking of a particularly bold act, such as releasing some of Tesla’s patented technology in order to foster further electric car development.

Tesla, he said, sold 22,500 cars last year and is on target to sell 35,000 this year because of key advantages, including longer range per charge than its electric car competitors.

No other automakers, he says, have taken electric cars as seriously. Most are doing what is “minimally required” under rules for non-polluting cars and abandon those projects altogether when the regulations are eliminated.

“I was hoping other companies would engage in more serious electric-car programs,” he says. He says he applauds efforts to make electric cars better, like a longer range being promised for Nissan’s Leaf. He says he applauds attempts to get to long ranges on mass-market priced cars even before Tesla, which expects to field a more moderately priced car — around $35,000 — in a couple of years. It will have a range per charge of about 200 miles.

The $5 billion battery pack gigafacility that will allow Tesla to ramp up production of the “affordable Tesla,” Musk said that final site selection will not be made until the end of the year.

Elon Musk will remain CEO of the electric automaker through production of its “Gen 3″ car in 4 or 5 years.

Musk, 42, said he is committed to remaining CEO of Tesla long enough to reach full production of the Gen 3, expected to hit the market in late 2016. With a projected cost of $35,000, the Gen 3 will be Tesla’s first car affordable to middle class drivers, and as such, it represents a major milestone for the company.

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