By on June 21, 2013

Now that Better Place went belly-up,  Tesla  joined the battery-swapping lifestyle.  As promised, Tesla unveiled a system to swap battery packs in its electric cars.  According to Reuters, Tesla “will roll out the battery-swapping stations later this year, beginning along the heavily-traveled route between Los Angeles and San Francisco and then in the Washington-to-Boston corridor.”

“There are some people, they take a lot of convincing,” Musk told the wire. “Hopefully this is what convinces people finally that electric cars are the future.”

The swapping transaction itself needs a little polish. Says Reuters: “A battery pack swap will cost between $60 and $80, about the same as filling up a 15-gallon gas tank, Musk said. Drivers who choose to swap must reclaim their original battery on their return trip or pay the difference in cost for the new pack.”

The technology garnered attention from an unlikely corner: That of Nissan, maker of the Leaf.  The swapporama was featured in today’s issue of “The Week in Autos,”  featuring the always elegant Coco Masters and the dapper Ian Rowley, both of Nissan’s global newsroom, and both familiar faces on TTAC.

Interestingly, their series does what other makers rarely do: Talk about the competition. They even talk nice about the other guys. Tesla is partially owned by Nissan’s rival Toyota, which makes the matter even more interesting.

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9 Comments on “Tesla Is Into Swapping While Nissan Is Watching...”

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    Actually, a battery swap scheme may actually work….given the requisite infrastructure. This would eliminate the excessive waiting for a recharge, and if we could standardize battery packs (in some modular fashion perhaps in order to facilitate different power requirements), we could eliminate the long-term battery replacement charge fears.

    Given all that, we still have the problems of providing adequate “juice” to feed all those battery charging systems. Our power infrastructure is – shall we say – about as adequate as is the IQ of our congresscritters.

    • 0 avatar

      I was thinking this, especially with respect to California. Don’t they already have issues keeping the lights on out there? It may be better for the enviornment to build more power plants and charge the batteries due to how they run, but good luck with that in California. I do like the idea in theory as it has been working in warehouses all over for some time.

      • 0 avatar

        The environmentally easy and sound solution is more wind turbines. The problem with wind turbines is storage of the electricity until needed (although it’s not nearly as much of a problem as some would have you believe. So the job of charging batteries turns wind’s problem into a solution.

      • 0 avatar

        ::especially with respect to California. Don’t they already have issues keeping the lights on out there? It may be better for the enviornment to build more power plants and charge the batteries due to how they run, but good luck with that in California.::

        You’re talking about an event that happened over 10 years ago because of wide-scale price manipulation by Enron among others. This is the quickest source, although I’m sure there are better ones. California’s deregulation of the industry allowed it:

        There was never actually a shortage of power plant capacity.

        California has also had no trouble building power plants, despite claims that environmentalists are preventing them from being built. In fact, even Cato noted that 11 power plants (one of which was coal) were built in the 90s, and only one was rejected outright. According to Cato, between 1998 and mid-2001 (all post deregulation) alone, California approved 9 new power plants with a capacity of over 22GW.

    • 0 avatar

      And by the way, a serious question. Would some sort of government involvement in getting these power swap stations up and running be a better way to incentivise electric car purchases versus the tax credits on the cars themselves? I would be more inclined to pay more for electric (providing the battery swap fees were substantially less than gasoline). My problem is the current range limitation which is something these sort of stations could potentially address.

      edit – Just saw the 60-80 bucks. At those prices this still looses to the ICE in the free market I am afraid. Electric cars will remain niche until there is a financial reason for normal people to ditch gas powered vehicles and the limitations are addressed. This can take care of the second part, but even with widespread adoption you are still paying more for less capability. Joe Sixpack won’t do it. Of course you won’t have to swap all the time so I think it is definitely a step in the right direction. Need to get some standardization though.

      • 0 avatar

        “Joe Sixpack won’t do it.” I’m unaware of Joe Sixpack buying these things. No idea if they ever plan lowering the price.

        “you are still paying more for less capability.” I have to wonder how many of those with $60-80k sports/GT cars use them for long distance travel. Still, it keeps the glaring fault in the public eye by making even more expesive than gas.

        The whole system seems a non-problem for the Roadster/Model-S/Model-X. Not going to work for the pie-in-the-sky mass market Bluestar.

        • 0 avatar

          Last time I filled up my E320 Mercedes at about $4 per gallon for premium gas, it cost me $78.90 for roughly 400 miles. That’s only a little cheaper than the battery swap price range. If I had a V8 Mercedes it would be significantly more expensive. Actually a V8 model would probably cost almost exactly the same per mile as a battery swap. Considering the target audience that strikes me as a pretty reasonable cost.

          But given the free SuperCharger, I’m not sure if it’s worth it. I think I would be more likely to use the free supercharger and stop for lunch. And in the real world, I suspect all but the most Type A Tesla owners will do the same. (Actually the real Type A Tesla owners will take their Gulfstream G550 jet to their other Tesla at their destination, but that’s another subject entirely).

          If you consider that 95% of the time, I’m going to charge the car overnight in my garage for about $6, it’s an overwhelming cost advantage for Tesla, even if I occasionally succumb to the need for speed and use the battery swap a time or two a year.


          • 0 avatar

            What we need this for though is the more mainstream EV offerings. If I had the ability to complete a long trip on occasion I would probably buy an EV but I can’t swing a Tesla and the rest don’t offer this. If we could get some standardization in the batteries this could work on a larger scale.

        • 0 avatar
          Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

          SuperCharger and battery swap are more for psychological comfort than anything else, as experience has shown with modern EVs. People who own EVs tend to charge at home and not use public charging all that much after awhile, since home charging is more convenient and they tend to internalize the EV’s range fairly quickly. Turns out it’s mostly Volt and other PHEV owners who use public charging more often to avoid gas anxiety.

          I wouldn’t be surprised if Tesla owners behaved a bit differently at least at first, since free juice is better than juice you pay for, but I bet after awhile they’d hit the SuperCharger only if they’re on long trips, if it’s in a short drive from their house (or apartment) without a garage, or they’re just cheap bastards.

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