Business Technology

Tuesday 16 September 2014

PayPal founder Elon Musk donates $1m for Nikola Tesla museum

Matthew Sparkes

Published 11/07/2014 | 14:01

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Elon Musk
Elon Musk

Billionaire PayPal founder and space exploration entrepreneur Elon Musk has donated $1m to restore a museum in honour of the inventor and futurist who lends his name and inventions to the electric car company he founded .

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Musk's electric car company Tesla Motors is named after the engineer whose work included electric motors, X-rays, radio and the eponymous Tesla coil. Matthew Inman, who draws the online cartoon The Oatmeal, made a plea for cash in a cartoon which described how much he enjoyed driving his electric Model S.

Previously Inman had used crowdfunding service Indiegogo to raise the money to buy Tesla’s old laboratory in Shoreham, New York, for $1.3m. Over 33,000 people from 100 countries - including Musk - donated, but a further $8m was still needed to turn the decrepit site into a museum.

His cartoon pointed out that each of Tesla's cars are powered by an AC induction motor originally invented by Nikola Tesla, and called for Musk to donate the needed money to refurbish the buildings and create a lasting tribute to Tesla.

"The name Tesla is public domain, and all of Nikola Tesla's patents have long since expired, so Tesla Motors is free to use his surname and his technology without owing any royalties or licensing to the Tesla family," it said.

"I am not challenging that, nor am I accusing Tesla Motors of stealing or profiting from a moniker. But the idea of a car company using someone else's family name without any formal connection to them is a slightly arresting notion. It would be like naming a company 'Steve Jobs Hoverbikes' 50 years from now, regardless of any ties to Apple or Jobs himself.

"Elon Musk, if you're reading this: you owe us nothing, and you've done nothing but good things in the name of Nikola Tesla. But the fact remains: Tesla Motors, a company now worth billions, is using Nikola Tesla's name and they're using his technology, and all we want in return is a little bit of help."

In response to the cartoon, the day after it was published, Musk tweeted Inman and said “I would be happy to help”. Now, two months on – and timed perfectly to land on what would have been Tesla’s 158th birthday, a $1m donation was made. It still leaves $7m left to raise but takes the museum a large step closer towards its goal.

In a blog post last night Inman wrote: "Elon Musk: from the deepest wells of my geeky little heart: thank you. This is amazing news."

As well as the money, Musk has promised that a Tesla supercharger would be installed on the site so that Tesla drivers could recharge their vehicle’s battery there.

Telegraph.co.uk

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