Elon Musk: Battery Swap Facilities to Open “In The Next Few Months” Between San Francisco and LA



When will we see the first Tesla battery swapping stations in the real world?

Battery Swap Demo

Battery Swap Demo

Well, if Tesla CEO Elon Musk is speaking the truth, then the first battery swappers will open “in the next few months” between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Musk says that these swap stations will be analyzed for usage.  from that analysis, Tesla will decide whether or not to move forward with the swapping station idea.

Way back in June 2013, Tesla demonstrated the battery swapping live.

Musk says “we’re a little bit behind” in making those stations a reality, but at least a couple are still planned to come online soon.

However, with Superchargers popping up everywhere, is there still a need for battery swapping?  Even Tesla seems unsure of the answer to that question, so we ask “what do you think?”

Source: Business Week

Categories: Tesla

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49 Comments on "Elon Musk: Battery Swap Facilities to Open “In The Next Few Months” Between San Francisco and LA"

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No need.

Tesla has a huge need/incentive to offer the battery-swap option in California: Without battery-swap, Tesla would not be eligible to obtain the highest number of tradeable credits. The current number of credits awarded to Tesla was contingent on Tesla offering battery swaps. If those credits were to be reduced (worse, retroactively), it would have a huge negative impact to Tesla. So Tesla MUST offer battery swaps. The question is only how much of it, and when. And I don’t know how much or by what time.

Agreed. Tesla does have an incentive/requirement to open at least a few of these.

Whether or not there will be wider expansion or not, or if it makes fiscal sense for Tesla or the consumer is whole other story/very debateable.

I can envision quite a few use cases for this along the LA-SF corridor…

Also, consumer trends are not always rational. If using the battery-swap becomes a “thing” (e.g., like buying $6 Frappucinos or getting the latest iPod-7x), then demand will quickly justify expansion.

Finally, it’s the last nail in the coffin of “EVs are not viable” canard. As such it’s a huge image booster and again – consumer trends being irrational etc. etc. – can definitely help the bottom line.

Swapping is definitely quicker and more convenient than Supercharging but also fraught with practical problems and being a costly system definitely not going to be “free for life”.

It seems a bit late in the game to introduce it, after all people already paid for their batteries and may not be eager to switch them out at a battery swap station for basically someone else’s battery.

Solutions like “pick them up again on the way back” or “compensation for quality differences”(if I remember correctly) don’t sound very practical.

I think Elon said last year that it would cost $60 or $80 per swap.

Yeah, on the order of a gas-tank fillup.

As to “my battery”, WTH? It’s not like ppl become personally attach for them, or have to suspect Tesla will shaft them with some 20-year-old used one.

Esp. because there are no 20-year-old used ones.

Tesla made their car including the battery. Tesla made it swappable. And, if swapping, it’s done at a Tesla facility and they’re getting an equivalent Tesla battery.

Except for people who put on gloves whenever they need to get involved with stuff not their own, I really don’t see what’ the big deal here.

@electric-car-insider: just watch the clip above, will you? This is basically rather simple robotics of the type many car shops and factories have. And it takes <3 minutes.

Actually, if you spend some time on the Tesla forums, you will see folks that have a lot of daily angst about coddling their batteries. I can understand that since its half the cost of the car, but I see those folks for being poor candidates for swapping, as they would likely we worried they got an inferior battery in the transaction.

He said it would be comparable to a tank of gas. Now, that’s a very open statement because to fill my hybrid costs me $35, but it could cost over $150 to fill a truck. FWIW, in the video, the Audi driver pays about $100 for his tank of gas. I personally think it’s no accident that they show that total.

Elon said it would be comparable to filling a comparable full size luxury sedan with premium gas.

Thanks for the clarification. That just brings even more weight to the $100 number. That’s where I expect it to fall.

Let’s see if this makes sense – If you needed to add $10 of energy to a car, would you swap out a $30,000 component? In other words, if you owned that $30,000 component, how confident would you be that the replacement is really worth $30,010?

Hey Kilgore,
did you read John Irving’s “A Widow for a Day”
It’s a hoot.

With the california superchargers being the most popular, I imagine there might be a point in the near future where people might need to wait for an available supercharger slot. In which case, the question becomes, do you wait for one to open up for free charging? Or pay to get a fully charged battery in under 90 seconds and be on your way?

You’re not paying for the battery, because it’s a better battery. You’re paying for the battery, because you don’t want to wait to charge. That’s why these swap stations are only at the supercharger stations. You’re supposed to pick up your old batteries on the return leg of your vacation trip, thereby negating all the questions about the “quality ” of the swapped battery.

I imagine the supply of batteries was what slowed down the deployment of these swap-stations. Way store them for swapping, when they can be sold with a $100k car.

I’m with the rest of the posters so far. I don’t see this battery swapping thing as that great an idea.

Personally I don’t see it working out and the reasons why are well stated above. On the other hand if they came out with a battery lease option where you buy the car only I could see it working out. With that option folks who go that route won’t have a vested interest in which battery they carry as long as it isn’t a brick. Personally I’d never go for that and would much rather own everything and super charge at a slower rate for free. Lots of folks have money to burn so maybe there is a business case for leasing.

Battery swapping doesn’t make sense as a means of refueling the car. The battery is too expensive to justify removing it just to save 20-30 minutes.

What would make sense is renting out large batteries to people who buy a model E with a small battery. The way to make an EV economical is to sell it with a small battery and then rent out large batteries as needed.

All they need to do is make the different size batteries compatible. Then you can buy an inexpensive car with 80-150 miles of range and rent out a 300 mile range battery for the 3-6 times a year when you need it. That saves $15k-$25k off the purchase price, while still effectively having the same capability. You just need to plan for a 10 minute battery swap at the beginning and end of your trips (assuming there will be lines and some paperwork).

Yup. This would make the case for buying a 60kWh Model S and then swapping the batteries out for an 85kWh pack for longer trips. Doing this close to home would make it relatively easy to swap back for your own pack on the return trip.

Also makes it possible to swap the 60 for the 110kWh pack when they become available.

That’s a great idea !

Think the main point of a battery swap (as defined by Tesla) is being missed. It’s not an asset swap, but a battery rental service.

Swapping a Model S (X) battery is just a rental and must be returned, or purchased. EV owner just pays for use on the rented battery. Their battery is in held as collateral until rental is returned. Like a rental car, the renter is responsible for returning logistics. If not claiming their battery from the rental location, additional logistic and transportation fees will apply. (unless owner what’s to trade-in old battery for a different battery; then it’s a purchase)

Correct… most of the nay-sayers in this thread don’t seem to have understood how Tesla’s battery swapping is intended to work. Course, that doesn’t stop them from opining.

Here’s the thing most aren’t getting: The swapped in battery is only TEMPORARY. (Unless you decide to purchase it.) Eventually, you return the same swap station and get your ORIGINAL battery back. (Fully charged of course.)

useless honestly, supercharger is all you need

I believe there is no need for battery swapping, they should scrap this idea and invest in more superchargers…

At least Tesla is in better shape to try this then Better Place did in that they have ten times the cars on the road. Along with that Tesla has several back up plans in place where if they build two or three swap stations and it turns out to be a turkey it won’t bring down the whole company with it if it fails.

I think $50 would be the upper limit of swapping a battery. Another possibility with Tesla is that they could have a 60 kilowatt battery and then swap it out for a 110 or 120 kilowatt battery for a long road trip and the return it for the smaller one.

I’m right now open to the idea of Tesla testing it on a small scale but I don’t think they should go full throttle right off the bat but give it two or five years to see if it works out or not. In that if they come out with say a 110 kilowatt battery or a 180 kilowatt battery it could easily make battery swapping out dated.

Tesla now has at least 20x cars on US roads compared to what Better Place had in Israel. They never quite made it to 1000 units, and half of those (give or take) were their own employees.

That alone would at least put Tesla in better shape then Better Place. I’m glad Tesla built the battery swapping as a bonus and not a make or break the company.

Like others here, this idea doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence. But I’m glad Musk has the foresight and the cash to run the market experiment, primarily because we don’t know for a fact if it will succeed.

If someone had told me before I’d ever heard of Tesla that some Really Rich Guy was going to start a new car company that sold only EVs, and then gave me the specs for, say, the current Model S, including range and price, and told me how quickly the company would be profitable, I would have said that was insane, they’ll sell 100 a month in the US and be out of business in no time.

In all fairness, we have to admit that one of the major contributors to Tesla’s success so far has been the utter failure of Toyota, Honda, and other major car companies to jump on the EV bandwagon. Tesla had the high-income early adopters all to themselves. If, for example, Honda had an Accord EX-EV with a 250 to 300 mile range and could sell it for $10k less than a more-or-less equivalent Tesla, they’d own that segment and Tesla would be a footnote.

Disagree with this. All other cars that are hybrid or electric are not as good as the Tesla. Auto companies build their electric cars on the same platform as their ICE and sacrifice weight and range. They also wouldn’t take the risk. Tesla has further put themselves out ahead of the bigs with their own super charging stations which aren’t compatible with any one else’s cars. Now Toyota long range car has to solve all the issues already solved by tesla. They don’t have the risk tolerance for this. Maybe they do a consortium to share risk…

My bet is that there will not be any major competitor (long range + pure EV) until the price for mobile energy storage is cut in half.

I’m going to concur with most people here that I think battery swapping is not really all that important. I think it is a gimmick to help quell the naysayers about long recharge times. I think supercharging is plenty fast and I see no need for the swap.

More than just quelling the naysayers, I’d say it could legitimately help sales. Most people who don’t know much about EVs simply think they NEED to be able to refuel in less than 5 minutes. They imagine themselves standing next to their car in sub-zero temperatures, holding onto that supercharger handle while the car charges. (Sadly, I’m not exaggerating). They won’t know how wonderfully convenient superchargers are until they’ve tried them.

There are many downsides to swap, several of which have been listed above. One not mentioned yet is that the Model S battery has 37 bolts securing it to the frame. If any one if those 37 bolts doesn’t come off or go in right to the right torque spec, you will not be continuing on your way until a mechanic assesses and fixes the situation. Right now a manual battery swap takes 5 hours. If you were a few hundred miles away from home, would you risk it to save 30-45 minutes, which will likely be spent eating anyway? (How many people really don’t take a meal break after a 4-5 hour trip segment and continuing on for several more hours?)

watch the video clip, will you? It takes 2-3 minutes and is fully automated.

A robotic driver that tightens bolts to specs is pretty standard technology nowadays.

I think the concern expressed here is to do with corrosion. The demonstration was no doubt done with a factory fresh car. Can Tesla guarantee that a Mid West winter won’t seize those bolts in? What happens then? Starting the program in CA will reduce risk in this respect.

Yes, I’ve watched the video. I’ve also seen Dave Duff, the designer of the Tesla Model S, describe how installing the battery at the factory didn’t actually go perfectly every time.

I’ve also seen the underside of my Model S and understand why it took 5 hours to swap the battery when it was replaced.

I was a mechanic in my 20’s and did plenty of engine and transmission overhauls. Things don’t always line up right and bolts get stripped. Even if you’re a robot.

Just ask Dave Duff, who built robots at Xerox PARC, and now builds robots for Google.

In the real world, stuff goes wrong.

*designer of the Tesla Model S battery and coolant connectors

Another potential long term issue with swapping no one has mentioned yet, is the pack is a structural reinforcing element for the vehicles frame. Misalignment from swapping could cause premature wear / damage to the suspension system & tires. Doing it wrong, would be costly. The “swapbot” has to be perfect every time…

I agree that battery swapping doesn’t really make a lot of sense. The whole point of this exercise is to convince the public that EVs are just as convenient as gas cars. I think that need is going away as the supercharger comments here indicate.

Given that Tesla production is battery limited (thus the gigafactory announcement), why would they put batteries into a swap pool to make “60 to 80 dollars” when they could put them in a car and make $100K?

Swapping stations should not be placed on the LA-SF corridor but in downtown LA and SF where condo and apartment dwellers don’t have a garage or access to a 240 volt plug.

Those are the people who really want these not the current house owning Model S owners.

Rob, that is a great idea, anyone know if Tesla is considering battery swap in large metro areas to serve the “garage-less?” Only problem is they’d have to have large inventory of expensive batteries, but I see this idea could get traction later on when they need to juice sales demand and have a GigaFactory worth of batteries. They could even lease a vehicle and batteries separately, and charge a reasonable fee each time you swapped, allowing for a very affordable base car lease rate and then revenue each time someone swaps. Might be a way to sell more Model Es – there are likely not many people that can afford a Model S that live in apartments/condos.

I talked with a Tesla SuperCharger planner and he said they avoid putting SuperChargers in areas where lots of Model S owners live (or they’d hog up the free chargers), and instead focus on long distance corridors. But battery swap (or charging for some metro area SuperChargers) could enable them to break into a whole new market of apartment/condo dwellers.

They just need chargers where they park their cars and that just needs cheaper BEVs. Demand drives change.

Well, naturally, it’s important right now in order to get the ZEV credits per car, but it’s also important to have a solution available to handle contention with a high volume of cars.

Let’s talk charging logistics.
With vehicles spaced 2 seconds apart, a point on a road could have up to around 1,685 cars passing per hour in each lane. That’s a large potential peak volume to be handled.
Each Supercharger could currently only serve 2 to 3 cars per hour.
A Superswapper could handle 20 to 30 per hour.
But, any time a swapper is the first swap, it has to set aside the customer’s battery, and when it’s the last swap it has to return the customer’s battery. So, that’s potentially a lot of batteries to be stored. Would a Superswapper site in some locations need to be a large warehouse, or would they be distributed and people encouraged to book ahead?

I can see other benefits from the work:
– Use installation in factory assembly of vehicles
– Save hours of labor when you replace your aging battery
– Grid-backup warehouse at Gigafactories for use of old batteries before recycling.

Wish they swapping available when I bought my 40/60 S along with a battery service program. Probably would have cost me @$20k less (<$40k after tax credit) and as long as I could swap in a 60 or 85 battery when needed I would have an even more functional car. I would be happy to pay $400/mo and $100/swap for that. It bring the price of a Model E to @$18K plus battery service contract. With battery cell cost reduction, the service contract may be able to be offered for @$250/mo.

and the contract costs would come down over time as the pack costs come down

If there were a 150 mile range performance tesla, I’d buy it and would want to utilize swaps for longer trips.

As Tesla’s reaches saturation with high end buyers who do long trips in planes, we’ll see if 30 min superchargers work for the other 98%. I’d say some would want swapping.

Elon Musk is hugely “optimistic” about when things will get done. Eventually they do though. I believe he gave a specific number of $80 per swap. The busiest super charging center is between SF and LA. It would make sense to start extracting money there rather than forcing huge delays on their customers. The idea is that on the way back they would get their original battery pack back. Seems like a logistics nightmare to me but that is how it was explained. I see this as the perfect time to inspect the battery pack for failing cells and replace them. Thereby keeping the customer base insanely loyal and hiding any unexpected problems. Extrapolating battery life years beyond their empirical data leaves them exposed. So we can be assured battery swapping technology will be available for all…

The busiest supercharger is not between SF and LA, It’s Fremont followed by Hawthorne. Both nearest to dense population centers. Gilroy, a distant third, is on the edge of the San Jose metro area.

Tesla has placed the Superchargers on busy corridors between metro area to give the car a capability it would not have otherwise.

$80 dollars for a swap seems very steep it would make more sense if it was $40 or $50. In that I would wait a hour to save $80.

Sounds great. However, another downside to making the battery swappable is that theft could become an issue even if it takes removing 37 bolts, because the battery is extremely expensive, which is enough incentive for thieves to steal it and then sell it on a future black market. However, if the battery requires a key (or key code from inside the car) in order to remove it, that would probably deter a thief. I’m not familiar with what security the swappable battery has.

If you try to remove the battery, it bursts into flames.