Buried in last week’s exciting announcement of the Dual Motor Drive Tesla Model S was an interesting nugget of news buried at the bottom of a story by Automotive News. Elon Musk apparently told AN that Tesla will bring online its first battery swapping station in the next two months after remaining mum on the subject since last year’s debut.
Tesla’s battery swapping technology rolled out last summer as a response to a possible California mandate requiring fast-filling technology for alternative fuel vehicles. That mandate never made it into law though, and battery swapping seemed to be put on the back burner as Tesla focused on the Model X launch and the all-wheel drive system. For all the fanfare that came with Elon’s battery swapping announcement, all talk of the system seemed to disappear this year.
The first battery swap station is scheduled to come online between San Francisco and Los Angeles within the next two months, though unlike the Supercharger system it won’t be free. Rather, owners will be charged for the electricity, and either have to return and pick up their original battery or pay for the brand new battery based on the mileage of their original pack. For the trade off of about the same cost as a full tank of gas, they’ll be able to get a full EV charge in half the time it takes to fill up an equivalent luxury sedan.
Meanwhile Tesla has exceeded 200 Supercharger stations across the world, including more than 100 in the United States alone. While a few strategically-placed battery swap stations might not be a bad idea. As Project Better Place showed though, basing your whole company around battery swapping stations is a recipe for disaster.
But between free Superchargers and cheap home charging systems, are battery swap stations necessary? I reckon no, but Elon Musk may have other ideas.