By on June 18, 2013

batteryswapTesla’s long-rumored battery swap technology will get its first reveal Thursday night, according to a Tweet from Elon Musk himself.

The Tesla battery swap project has been in the works for some time, with the Model S apparently having the capability for battery-swapping from the get-go. There are a few issues that come into question here; what kind of technology will be used to help swap a 1,200 pound battery in under 5 minutes? What level of automation will be used? How does this conflict (or complement) with the whole Supercharger network? We’ll have to wait until Thursday to find out.

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28 Comments on “Tesla Confirms Battery Swap For Model S...”

  • avatar

    Frankly this is a far better technology than the super charger stations. It solves two problems at the same time- charging, and also you don’t have to worrying about battery life if you can change batteries every time you go to a swapping station. In other words, the cost of the anticipated battery replacement will be rolled into the price of the battery swap.

    • 0 avatar

      The Israeli company “Better Place” came up with this. A long time ago, I’d envisioned “battery swapping” of this manner – to be done just as quickly as exchanging a propane tank.

      Thing is, I ultimately don’t believe people want to have their cars “taken apart” each and every time they need a recharge because their is always a fear they will be given a flawed part.

      If Tesla could come up with a sub-$40,000 EV that gives you everything the Model S gives you, a 200 mile range and battery swappability, then MY SHARES WILL SKYROCKET.

      • 0 avatar

        The genius of the BP model was that the customer never owned the battery pack, he leased it from BP. If you got a bum pack you just get it swapped for another one, kind of like swapping the propane tank for your grill. I suppose that Tesla could warranty a swapped pack or offer swapping as part of a separate leasing program but it’s not as elegant as the BP model.

      • 0 avatar

        Actually Better Place got the idea from Tesla, not the other way around. (I believe Elon mentioned this in the 2013 Shareholders meeting.)

        I’d rather supercharge than deal with loaner packs and have my ‘S disassembled each time I “fill up” on a trip. I am fine spending a few minutes (fewer than 40 minutes now) drinking a coffee at a rest stop every 400km while the car charges. I want to keep my well-maintained battery and not a loaner. :-)

  • avatar

    If only there were some sort of industry, perhaps some magical electric-powered vehicles that were used in material handling, that could serve as a testbed for such a crazy idea!

    I agree, this is far superior to supercharger stations, provided you could get them semi-safely into private homes (like Honda’s CNG “Phill” system). I try to be the voice for the majority of America who doesn’t live inside a densely-populated city. We’re a nation of decentralization, and any mass market idea needs to scale (at least) to the suburbs to gain much traction.

  • avatar

    If he gets an infrastructure in place, he’ll own the electric vehicle drivetrain market.

    If one of the larger oems builds an EV, it will be their body on a Tesla skateboard. The supercharger is a backup for the battery swap.

  • avatar
    Rental Man

    The Better Place Co. just died in Israel using the swap system. Rural areas have the space yet lack the range, Cities would need sizable warehouses to charge and reshuffle the cars in a timely fashion.
    Home chargers and Workplace chargers as well as rest area and Street meter / charger stations. If an Alaskan car connects to street powered engine block heaters, So can an electric car.

  • avatar

    Another huge technical advantage for Tesl if they can bring this technology to market. This makes much more sense than supercharging and would make the finite lifetime of battery packs a non-issue. Engineering and intellectual property is what makes companies like Tesla truly valuable, not design (Fisker).

    • 0 avatar

      Mosler just went out of business. They had unbelievable performance and great mileage. They also looked like they were designed by engineers (the typical rear end looked exactly like I would engineer).

      Design is what sells cars. IP sells companies. Startups need both to survive.

  • avatar

    When I see “1,200# battery swap,” I immediately think that maybe twenty 60# modular battery packs would be the practical implementation. Stop at a station and have a team of two guys do the job in 10-15 minutes, assuming the batteries are appropriately modular and easy to access.

    Suck it up and realize that this might result in an ugly car. Form needs to follow function to make this stuff work.

  • avatar

    I’m looking forward to this. It’s no weirder than the idea of having big trucks pump explosive liquids into the ground and distributing it through a hose into people’s vehicles.

    • 0 avatar

      A fantastic perspective is what people would think of gas if everyone already drove electrics.

      They’d be amazed at the range, but horrified of danger of the flammable fuel not to mention that it’s dirty, etc. We’d see as much hate for the gas as we see against EVs. I agree completely that the only reason we accept certain things is because we’re familiar with them.

    • 0 avatar

      One might draw the conclusion that people are afraid of the unknown.

  • avatar

    If this is for swapping a defective battery, it makes sense. For swapping an empty battery just to get a full one quickly, it sounds expensive. What do you think “5 minutes” of a trained technicians time is going to cost, including the liability cost if something gets messed up and your $100K toy car melts down?

    • 0 avatar

      There’s no reason that you’d need technicians. BTW, the Model S was designed from day 1 to support battery swapping, so older Model S’ will be supported.

    • 0 avatar

      Do you need a trained technician to change the battery in your laptop or cell phone? Assuming it is designed to be swapped, of course.

      It’s fundamentally no different than putting 20 gallons of highly flammable liquid into the car every 3-400 miles. I think BP’s problem was they tried to start with a relatively cheap car. Tesla was smart to start out making toys for the rich, they can afford to compromise. As the tech improves and gets cheaper, roll out the cheaper models.

      Electric cars really are getting there. A Leaf is almost cheap enough for me to consider as a town runabout. If I lived somewhere that had reasonably priced electricity, and it had ~twice the range it would be there now. 5yrs maybe?

      • 0 avatar

        “It’s fundamentally no different than putting 20 gallons of highly flammable liquid into the car every 3-400 miles.”

        How long has it been since you’ve been to Oregon or the great State of New Jersey? They are both far behind the curve on this…

  • avatar

    Just turn the car on its back, use a screwdriver to remove the panel, pop out the battery and pop in a new one!

  • avatar

    Well, I suppose if there was a Tesla “changing station” every 200 miles along major interstates and distributed throughout the cites and suburbs at which the car went up on the rack and had its battery changed by the same sort of guys that change my oil and filter – yeah, i guess that could work if you had a lot of batteries. It’s going to cost the owner something but Tesla owner have already indicated they are willing to pay

  • avatar

    Where I work, we used to have 8 forklifts and a huge rack of batteries and charging stations. Each lift had 2 batteries, and one was always charging.

    Thanks to the advances in battery, charging, and EV technology, the lifts have regenerative braking, better batteries, motors, and controllers. This is one instance that “trickle-down” actually works, from a technology standpoint.

    Now there are 4 lifts with only one battery, and there are a couple batteries on standby if needed. Work volume is higher, if anything.

  • avatar

    Meh. Wake me when they have ACC and lane keeping assist like they should have had at launch for an 80k car.

    • 0 avatar

      Good thing you are not the CEO at Tesla – they would be bankrupt by now. Tesla had to release something to generate a profit, regardless of whether whiners like you are happy with the lack of ACC or LDW. You’re paying for the technology so cut them some slack on the featureset.

  • avatar

    I used to daydream about this technology as a kid. The more you think about it, the more it makes sense.

    I’d say it’s safe to assume the battery swap could be made to be entirely automated – and safe.

    What I envision down the road is an optional leasing program available to electric car owners where you are entitled to any battery in a given network. An amount of swaps or quick charges per month may be included in the fee. There would be different billing plans depending on network usage – similar to cell phone plans. And as mentioned by other commentors, the service life of the batteries would be factored into the monthly costs.

    The beauty of this plan is that the majority of drivers in urban environments would not need daily or even weekly access to these services.

    Battery swapping stations would only have to be placed mainly on freeways and major thoroughfares to service the long distance travelers. With quick charging technology advancing as it is, inventory levels of charged batteries needn’t even be that high. If a battery can be turned around in 45 minutes, it would be possible to service a significant number of cars within a relatively small footprint.

    Additionally,taxis, delivery services and even small truck operators could explore bulk leases and take advantage of a couple strategically placed swapping stations specifically for their usage.

    It’s incredible to think about but even more incredible to see the infrastructure slowly inching towards this reality.

  • avatar

    I’m pretty skeptical about the battery swap idea being viable. While I think it’s better to have the option, it just seems like a lot of effort, hassle, and inventory to keep extra battery packs around (especially charged battery packs). At best, it’s a temporary solution to a current problem: smallish capacity of batteries and slow charging rates. As both increase, swaps will be far less attractive.

  • avatar

    How much do these batteries cost? How much inventory of fully charged batteries will the battery swap facilities be keeping in stock? How much will the swap fee be and how are the facilities going to make their money?

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