Batteries battery swap tesla

Published on June 21st, 2013 | by Zachary Shahan


Tesla Wows Again — 90-Second Battery Swap Unveiled (VIDEO)

June 21st, 2013 by  

Update June 22: See 17 videos of the battery swap and follow-up Q&A with Elon Musk here.

Original Post:

You thought battery swapping was over, didn’t you? But then along came Tesla with another big announcement….

Tesla’s last big announcement following months of good news and press conferences was the announcement that it could perform a 90-second battery swap and would be rolling out battery swapping stations on the East and West Coast this year. This announcement took the form of a battery swapping demo last night (Thursday, June 20) at 8:00pm at Tesla’s Design Studio in Hawthorne, California. Video on Tesla’s site and here:

Fast Pack Swap Event from Tesla Motors on Vimeo.

Indeed, even despite Better Place’s recent bankruptcy and Carlos Ghosn’s announcement that Nissan and Renault didn’t have any more plans to be involved with battery swapping, Tesla is jumping into the battery swapping arena. Later in the year, Tesla will roll out some battery swapping stations along the major Los Angeles-to-San Francisco corridor and then along to the Washington-to-Boston corridor.

Musk seemed quite optimistic about this segment of Tesla’s world-leading technology offerings. “Hopefully this is what convinces people finally that electric cars are the future,” Tesla CEO and Chairman Elon Musk said at the event.

Electric cars have been growing strong — by many standards, much faster than conventional hybrids did at the same stage of their development. Numerous major car companies now offer electric vehicles. But none offer what Tesla offers — the Model S, solar-powered supercharging stations, and now battery swapping stations. Tesla is clearly the world’s EV leader, and many would argue automotive leader, at this point in time.

tesla battery swap

Image Credit: Tesla

I was on a press call with Elon a few weeks ago in which the topic of battery swapping was brought up by a reporter. This was just following news that Better Place, the world’s initial battery swapping leader, was going bankrupt. Elon noted that he had been talking about battery swapping for years, that it wasn’t a revolutionary idea (we do it with other technologies), and that the keys were getting the battery swapping technology and economics right. We’ll see if Tesla has done so.

Initially, it will cost Model S drivers $60 to $80 to swap a battery pack. However, they have to swap again on their return drive and get their original battery pack back. Otherwise, they have to pay the difference between the value of their old battery pack and the new one. And, of course, if a driver would rather take a break and spend 20–30 minutes recharging with one of Tesla’s Superchargers for free, they can still do that — the battery swapping and supercharger stations will be located next to each other.

A key line from the demo last night was of course, “The only decision you need to make when you come to one of our Tesla stations is, Do you prefer faster, or free?”

As the demonstration last night showed, Tesla’s battery swapping service is as quick and cheap as filling up a 15-gallon gas tank. In other words, no compromises in switching from a gasmobile to an electric car. 90 seconds for a battery swap — not bad.

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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the typed word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession, Solar Love, and Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in.

  • Ben Helton

    Over one year later – and it’s officially smoke and mirrors. Tesla VP was recently quoted when asked about the coming ‘battery swaps’ he said “I want to talk about that even less”

    Wizard of Musk, oh what shall we feed the sheeple next?

    • Bob_Wallace

      How about slow roasted troll?

  • Breath on the Wind

    This press demonstration was as carefully performed as a magic act. It even included a bit of misdirection. On stage was a big screen with a timer. Don’t look behind the curtain… Below were two vehicles. We see two vehicles drive off. Why not a third? Did the battery from the first vehicle go into the second? How much gas was put in that car?? We hear that the pump was fast but at 25 gallons in 5 minutes there is some disparity. How much energy and how many miles exchanged per second is another measure of the work accomplished. Can we imagine that the battery swap that took so few seconds here will not evolve like the 10 minute oil change into a 30 minute stop while fluids and pressures are checked, batteries are located, moved out of the machinery and stored.

    And what about the setting. EV manufacturers are lowering their prices stealing the show. The model S has received some bad press at the hands of the NY times and out comes this smoke and mirrors show. There are more than 120,000 gas stations in the US and more than 6000 public charging stations. At 1/2 a million each just how many of these swapping stations are anticipated? They are not going to show up in the midwest where they are needed for longer trips by just a few EV owners. There will be a few in California to make a statement. “Fast or Free” there is no free lunch.

    Electricity excels at transmission while fuels are better at storage. Transmission of electricity to vehicles will be cheaper, more efficient, more democratic and create vehicles with unlimited range and no recharging times but this is not a system that Tesla is likely to implement on its own. Tesla has done great things and I hope it continues to offer the kind of innovation we saw with Apple computers, but it needs to be careful of over reaching or trying to be too much of a maverick.

    • Bob_Wallace

      ” There are more than 120,000 gas stations in the US and more than 6000 public charging stations. At 1/2 a million each just how many of these swapping stations are anticipated?”

      Enough to cover the needs of people taking long drives. Those who are unwilling to wait 20 minutes for a rapid charge and pay a premium price to save 18.5 minutes. I.e., few.

      Where your logic fails is that you fail to recognize that no one refills their gasmobile at home. Everyone uses a gas station.

      Start with the percentage of refills on long distance drives out of all refills and multiply by 120,000. I’d be surprised if the number is 12,000.

    • Bob_Wallace

      I was a working professional when Apple introduced their computers. Had been working for a decade or so.

      Apple changed the way the world worked. “Maverick” Apple changed the course of civilization. Yes, other companies came into the game but the Apple II and II+ did what Tesla could well be doing for personal transportation.

      Apple had a few missteps. There was the Newton. They got the concept, they were just ahead of the technology.

  • RobS

    Love the “they shouldn’t do this because I think it’s a bad idea” attitude so many seem to have. Guess what? Don’t like it? DON’T USE IT. It’s a free country, if tesla want to build a few and see if people use them then go for it. For a land that is supposed to be the land of liberty and free market capitalism there seems to be a lot of opposition to giving people options and the liberty to decide what works for them. As Elon said the intent is to give people two choices, fast or free, take your pick.

  • Wayne Williamson

    Cool…they keep surprising us…just gives an option if you want to take along trip. Just another thought, there are many times that it takes 8 to 10 minutes to fill a 15 gallon tank, been there, done that.

  • Ivor O’Connor

    I have mixed feelings about the whole thing.

    1) Elon didn’t have a script to fill the time. WTF! He’s been talking about this event for months and didn’t plan?

    2) Because he had no script he did not cover many of the details we all are asking.
    3) He stressed he looked for the fastest pump in LA. However he then put in 24 gallons into the tank. He is comparing apples to oranges. He should have filled up the tank for 12 gallons. That would have taken less time than the 130 seconds taken for swapping the Tesla. Even worse. If it is the 60 or 40 battery packs would have meant smaller gas tanks and Tesla would look even worse.
    4) It’s too expensive.

    5) Common sense says the battery packs need to be repaired and while they are under his roof it would be perfect. However this is never covered.

    Still it’s the best you can buy and quite a good deal all around but there is no need to send out so many mixed feelings. It was not his best work.

    Now on to the hyper-loop. Guess he’s going on vacation and then will start talking about the hyper-loop…

  • Pieter Siegers

    Tesla really rocks!! Next step must be when you don’t even need to stop over to charge, by means of wireless charging while you’re driving. I hope Elon Musk will make a more affordable EV very soon, if so I’ll be among the first to order one!

  • mds

    Battery swapping sucks. How about an add-on portable generator with tank for longer trips to more remote areas off of the Tesla all-electric super highways? That’s what I need here in the NW if I’m going to pay that kind of premium for a vehicle. Just say’in… I’m probably not large market representative. Battery swapping still sucks. Stay on the rails dudes! You dodged this bullet and “project better place” did not. Don’t go there now.

    • Bob_Wallace

      In what way does battery swapping suck?

      It’s not cheap. If it costs $80 to rent a 300 mile charged battery that’s almost 30 cents per mile, but chicken feed for some people if they’re not using the service very often.

      It (eventually) gets things to 100% renewable electricity while a genset would need a biofuel system to be carbon neutral.

      • Otis11

        The other thing to consider – what’s a comparable cars? BMW – 5 series is my first thought. So let’s take a look at that car. They do a good job of hiding their MPG numbers for all but the 528i, the Hybrid or the Diesel version… but if you dig enough you can see that their most comparable model, the 550i gets 21 MPG combine with an 18.5 Gallon gas tank. That’s 388 Miles per fill up for $68.45 (Assuming $3.70/Gallon).

        So what that says is, while it is a bit cheaper to buy gas on long trips, if you are driving a comparable car, the difference in price between gas and a battery swap is rather slight, but is noticeable. Now, consider the fact that you drive the rest of the year on $1.50/gallon equivalent fuel, and I don’t see it being an issue.

        (we’re also overlooking the fact that the technology will get cheaper as it continues – we have a novelty price at the moment.)

        Also, these are likely to get more use than you think – most people who buy the Model S likely value their time more than the swap price…

  • Bob_Wallace

    Elon is obviously a smart guy. But the other thing that is likely happening at Tesla is that because they are the premier EV manufacturer, so far out ahead of all other companies, they must get to pick from a pool of extremely smart and talented engineers and other people who are very interested in electric powered transportation.

    I bet almost no one in the organization is “just doing their job to earn a paycheck”.

    • Ross

      Yes. Same applies to SpaceX.

  • Ross

    My take is this is essentially a gimmick. Since they planned battery swapping in from the start they’re now using it to answer one of the critics talking points. But the normal tesla driver will charge at home or at work and most will opt for the free charging as it’s free.

  • Musician

    Why is there an awful noise through (at least the first minute of) the video?

    I wonder what the rest of it was about.

    Oh. You thought it was music?

  • RamboSTiTCH

    Cool video, wish we could have had a closer look at the swap. Also, did anyone notice the guy put in 23.221 gallons of gas? That would take a 25 mpg car 575 miles. To go 265 miles which is the Model S 85 kW battery pack range, a 25 mpg car would only need 10.6 gallons, so cut the time in half. About 2 minutes.

    That said, if I had the money, I would be on the waiting list for a Model S. Didn’t even get out of the car for the swap, pretty sweet.

    • Ross

      I’m not in the habit of filling my tank for my expected journey. I just fill it up.

      • RamboSTiTCH

        Agree. I usually pay inside, grab a beverage and wait in line too. 5-6 minutes. But for a Model S driver, if all you did was swap, you would “fill up” twice as often. 265 x 2 = 530 But I would still love it. I might lay on the ground and watch… 🙂

        • Ross

          That’s a better way of stating your point.

  • Amber Archangel

    Blue jeans, black T-shirt and Tux jacket…stylin’. Great
    story, thanks!

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