Tesla's First Battery Swap Station Opening Soon

Cameron Aubernon
by Cameron Aubernon

While Tesla owners — and owners of all EVs, for that matter — may be waiting a couple of years before titanium oxide anodes bring battery charging levels down to the 3- to 5-minute fueling times found at a given gas station, CEO Elon Musk has another option for them to consider: Battery-pack swapping.

SlashGear reports the first swapping station will come online within the next few months, offering S and X owners the option of allowing robots to swap a drained pack for a fully charged unit from underneath the car within 90 seconds. Not only is this method faster than refueling at the local ARCO, but it blows away the Supercharger’s 30-minute charging time, as well.

The pack swap would also enable owners to retrieve their original packs later on, or, should retrieval become inconvenient, pay the difference for the new pack. Critics note this could lead to supply problems, where some stations have batteries waiting for their owners to return, while others run short of new packs.

The first station will open somewhere between Los Angeles and San Francisco, though further details were scant.

Cameron Aubernon
Cameron Aubernon

Seattle-based writer, blogger, and photographer for many a publication. Born in Louisville. Raised in Kansas. Where I lay my head is home.

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  • Turf3 Turf3 on Oct 17, 2014

    Maybe Tesla should retain ownership of the battery packs, and you pay an annual maintenance fee of some sort. I think there are some other products (industrial use) like this, but for the moment it escapes me what they are. Maybe this generation of Tesla cars are not designed for a fast swap, but doing so is a relatively straightforward mechanical engineering job. The thing with the fast battery swap is that it eliminates one of the current major barriers to acceptance. A lot of people imagine themselves running out of charge (maybe on a long driving trip?) and hvaing to wait a long time to restart the car. Even if 98% of the user's trips are short enough that the overnight charge in the garage will work, there's still a big psychological barrier. There are very few places in the U.S. where it's a challenge to get from point A to point B in a gas car without having multiple opportunities to refuel. (And the refueling is fast.) People are getting more and more comfortable with paying monthly licensing/maintenance fees (see smart phones) so I could see Tesla owning the batteries; charging you per swap when you do make a swap; maybe some kind of an annual maintenance fee that gets you an annual "battery checkup and replacement" at the dealer or authorized service center? I haven't thought this out thoroughly, but it seems to offer promise.

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    • Luke42 Luke42 on Oct 18, 2014

      @PandaBear That's not what Tesla is doing. You rent a battery (or batteries) fr the dudurationmof your road trip. When you come back to that station the next time, you get your originals battery pack back. When you're back home, you and go back to charging your old battery at home to cover your routine driving. Yeah, it might only work on luxury cars that cost as much as a house in my part of the country - but it seems well thought out nonetheless.

  • Brandloyalty Brandloyalty on Oct 17, 2014

    There are plenty of hybrids that have over 10 years of use on similar batteries. Many are used as taxis and rack up huge mileage. Those posing concerns about "old" batteries, pro-rating etc. should have evidence from the history of hybrids about whether this is an issue to begin with. This reminds me of the myth that hybrid owners would have to replace an $8000 battery every few years. I would imagine Tesla is smart enough to monitor batteries and pull any from circulation that are below specs, for repair. This might even translate into free and permanent battery maintenance for owners. Probably the batteries will outlast the cars, and be superceded by new technology before they're "worn out".

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    • Vulpine Vulpine on Oct 20, 2014

      @David Dennis "Your Google skills are so poor that you couldn’t find the actual study. (Not that it matters; you wouldn’t understand it, anyway.)" That pretty much states that I did NOT find the correct study, yet the study I found is simply a re-reporting of the exact same article you claim is the correct one--so obviously I found the correct study. My literacy skills are quite acute, thank you. Your debating skills however... "The point that was being made is that the technology is not particularly reliable." On the other hand, the point being made by the study is that the technology is more than reasonably reliable and quite points out that even of those mere 23 units with "battery replacements", that didn't mean the entire pack was replaced in every case. To be blunt, none of us knows if any of those 23 were from the earliest Roadsters or ones built later in the production run--after production bugs were ironed out. And again I emphasize that the Roadster is no longer in production, which effectively eliminates this study from any possible analysis of battery reliability since the battery pack on the Model S is a later and apparently a more reliable design. As I said before, if the batteries were as much an issue as you want them to appear, then why don't we read more reports of failed batteries on automotive blogs--especially Tesla's own commentary pages?

  • David C. Holzman David C. Holzman on Oct 17, 2014

    >>>While Tesla owners — and owners of all EVs, for that matter — may be waiting a couple of years before titanium oxide anodes bring battery charging levels down to the 3- to 5-minute fueling times found at a given gas station The 3-5 minute charging times and 20 year batteries claimed would constitute a major revolution that would immediately make electric cars practical for all. And if there was a story here, it would be all over the major news media, since the geopolitical implications would be huge.

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    • Mcs Mcs on Oct 20, 2014

      @David C. Holzman >> As for the time you spend, you obviously have an emotional stake in your car, and that strongly affects how you view the time you spend at the charging station. It's really more of a case of business practicality. I don't want to spend time at the client's facility catching up on email that's accumulated during the 128/95 rush hour commute - especially when I'm charging per hour. It's their time. So, I deal with the emails at the charging station - out of sight of the client and using free WiFi. Same sort of thing with my clients in downtown Boston - except the correspondence etc. is done on the commuter rail.

  • PandaBear PandaBear on Oct 17, 2014

    It is a great idea in small volume. Let's say you have a Tesla and an emergency that you need to drive non stop for 48 hours (with 2 drivers in the car for example). You can swap battery along the way instead of waiting for recharge and Tesla keeps all the batteries until you come home (or not). In the end, Tesla move the batteries inventories around and you either go home on the same route to pick up your original battery fully charged, or have UPS haul it back to you for a fee (it gotta be cheaper than a new pack) if you wait for a few days on ground shipping. Range anxiety completely solved. Seriously, if they are willing to pay money to build super charger along highways, having a few extra packs (used, refurb, surplus, inventory rotation, whatever it is) sitting around is no big deal.

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    • Vulpine Vulpine on Oct 18, 2014

      @David C. Holzman (About 1/4 of the batters are having to be replaced every 3-4 years.) I assume you have verifiable data to support that argument?