Musk: Battery Swapping Probably Not Worth Expanding

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It was almost exactly two years ago that Elon Musk first demonstrated the battery swapping ability of the Tesla Model S. The electric sedan was designed from the onset to be capable of swapping out a depleted battery for a full one, but after the initial enthusiastic debut it took 18 months for the first battery swap location to be anointed.

Tesla sent out about 200 invites to Model S owners near the Harris Ranch, CA battery swap location, and according to Musk just “four or five” owners opted to use it, and only once, reports Autoblog. That’s about a 2% take rate, and despite recently expanding the invitation to try out the battery swapping station to all Model S owners, Musk doesn’t expect the numbers to sway very much. He went on to say that “…based on what we’re seeing here, it’s unlikely to be something that’s worth expanding in the future, unless something changes.”

There are those that would accuse Musk of gaming the system, as the ability to refuel in 15 minutes or less let’s Tesla earn an extra $5,000 worth of ZEV credits per Model S sold. To that I would argue simply that Musk, while certainly influential, doesn’t dictate public policy to CARB. The notorious California Air Resource Board has been known to make changes or exceptions to its rules, but it ultimately does what it thinks is best for the people of California (or at least one would hope).

Keep in mind, even if Tesla never does anything with its battery swapping tech beyond this one station, it still likely cost millions of dollars to develop and deploy the ability to do so. You also have to keep in mind that just as Tesla was starting to take off, Project Better Place was in the process of becoming a billion-dollar failure centered around battery swapping stations. After seeing that, who would think battery swapping tech stands a chance, especially with Supercharger stations and other charging options becoming increasingly prevalent. With the ability to plug in at home as well, battery swapping is a solution to a problem few people apparently have.

No wonder Musk has gone so sour on it.

Christopher DeMorro

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.