Video: Tesla To Deploy 90-Second Battery Swap Stations By End Of Year


tesla-swap-progressElon Musk knows how to wow a crowd, and last night in front of a crowd of reporters and techjunkies, he certainly wowed ‘em with Tesla’s new battery-swapping technology. In just 90 seconds, the Tesla Model S swapped its depleted battery for a fully-charged one, and Musk says these stations will be deployed alongside Supercharger stations by the end of 2013.

However, unlike the Supercharger stations, the battery swaps will not be free. Rather, it will cost about the price of 15 gallons of gas, between $60 and $80. That negates the whole “gallons of light” cheap energy advantage of the Model S, but it also provides a lot more convenience. The Supercharger stations take about an hour to fully charge a Model S, while a battery swap is supposedly faster than L.A.’s fastest gas pump.

But after you swap batteries, what then? Those packs are expensive, and degrade over time. According to Musk, you’ll be able to return to a swapping station and retrieve your pack, fully charged, for the same price as the new one you took off with. Or you can keep the new pack, and be charged the difference in value between the new pack and your used one. All of this will use an on-file credit card to automatically charge you. Tesla will even ship your old battery back to you at a later day, for an undisclosed fee.

Check out the video below of Elon’s presentation as the Tesla Model S races against a Tesla team member filling up an Audi sedan.  Skip to the 8:45 mark on the video to see the swap in progress, and stick around for the surprise that follows shortly after.

At a cost of $500,000 or so per swapping station, this isn’t a cheap investment for Tesla Motors. But as Musk notes, in order to convince people to buy EVs, you must address the issues that keep them away. Whether battery swapping will stick around or not, Musk is unsure, and Tesla has invested heavily into its Supercharger fast-charging network as well. Charging technology may one day make battery swapping obsolete. But with the option of free or fast, Tesla owners will no longer feel inconvenienced by long charging times.

The first battery swapping stations will be installed along the I5 corridor in California between L.A. and San Francisco, followed by the Boston-DC corridor by the end of 2013. 2013 is turning out to be a huge year for Tesla Motors. Can they carry this momentum forward into their next vehicle launch though?


About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.
  • UncleB

    Renting them more like it? Can I get older worn battery and get stuck with a “Pig in a poke” this way?

    • anderlan

      If it has the energy capacity it says it does, no.

  • anderlan

    I’m very curious to know how the swapping stations will coordinate with the supercharging ports’ multi-battery energy buffer, which Elon says 2 stations already have and which he says all stations eventually will have. These battery banks will be vital in allowing the stations to play nice with the grid and more fully utilize the stations’ solar arrays (no DC-to-AC conversion loss in those moments when the station can put solar DC into the DC battery bank). The battery banks will also be a synergistic stealth game changer for Tesla and SolarCity for the exact same reasons. The gas station of the future has panels on the giant gas station awning and battery banks underground where the petrol tanks would have been. It’s a giver to and taker from the grid with a giant storage buffer. Best possible efficiency, in opposition to the presently horribly inefficient grid structure.

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  • UncleB

    Watch this grow! See a wind Turbine on the horizon? likely a Tesla Charge/swap station? See a solar farm on a hillside? Another swap station? China drinks all our cheap gas, we go Wind and solar! Way to fight back America!

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  • Ax Taso Ax

    The Future is Now !God bless the Tesla crew…I said that since 1997 after my Chrysler Head on Accidend the Engine came in and Firefighters took 2 Hours of Pain to get me out and I said some day Cars will not have Gazoline Engines and they will change Batteries like I do to my RC car…..god I hate those SUV Asphalt Tractors…

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  • wattleberry

    We’re probably looking at the eventual standard procedure of the future here mainly because it is just about impossible to imagine there ever being enough mass public charging facilities to cater for universal EV adoption and a significant proportion of flat-dwelling owners will never be able to use home charging anyway.
    This is most likely what Elon envisaged all along with his mega battery factories encouraging standardization almost from the outset. Add in the attractions of conversions to existing gas stations, convenience and a simple means of continuing the existing tax levy(probably the the main consideration for Governments!) and it begins to look inevitable, perhaps even compulsory, notwithstanding the protests of well-meaning rooftop PV owners, the renewable element being catered for by distributed solar.

  • wattleberry

    Oh, nearly forgot; there may be no need to own the battery packs at all. These would remain the property of the power suppliers who would recover their cost, including depreciation, in the price charged ‘at the pumps’ as it were.
    The more I think about it, if this system was up and running now, IC vehicles could become obsolete virtually overnight