Tesla Details First “Pilot Program” Battery Swap Station



Harris Ranch Supercharger Info

Harris Ranch Supercharger Info

Earlier today we reported that Tesla’s first battery swapping station was live at Tesla’s Supercharging location in Harris Ranch California (ok, actually it is across the street from the existing chargers).

Now Tesla has put together a little press release of their own on the subject.  Of note, the company is calling the first station a “Pilot Program”.

Currently, the ability to access the station is by invite-only to selected Model S owners, and only by appointment.  Tesla says they will use the pilot program results to judge whether or not battery swap infrastructure will be an ongoing thing.

Also of interest, Tesla says that there are now “312 (traditional) stations with more than 1,748 Superchargers worldwide”

Tesla Press Release:

Elon Musk Takes The Stage To Demonstrate Tesla's 90 Second Battery Swap Earlier This Year

Elon Musk Takes The Stage To Demonstrate Tesla’s 90 Second Battery Swap Earlier This Year

At an event in Los Angeles last year, we showcased battery swap technology to demonstrate that it’s possible to replace a Model S battery in less time than it takes to fill a gas tank. This technology allows Model S owners in need of a battery charge the choice of either fast or free. The free long distance travel option is already well covered by our growing Supercharger network, which is now at 312 stations with more than 1,748 Superchargers worldwide. They allow Model S drivers to charge at 400 miles per hour. Now we’re starting exploratory work on the fast option.

Starting next week, we will pilot a pack swap program with invited Model S owners. They will be given the opportunity to swap their car’s battery at a custom-built facility located across the street from the Tesla Superchargers at Harris Ranch, CA. This pilot program is intended to test technology and assess demand.

At least initially, battery swap will be available by appointment and will cost slightly less than a full tank of gasoline for a premium sedan. More time is needed to remove the titanium and hardened aluminum ballistic plates that now shield the battery pack, so the swap process takes approximately three minutes.

With further automation and refinements on the vehicle side, we are confident that the swap time could be reduced to less than one minute, even with shields. Tesla will evaluate relative demand from customers for paid pack swap versus free charging to assess whether it merits the engineering resources and investment necessary for that upgrade.

Video (below): CEO Elon Musk debuts Tesla’s battery swap technology earlier this year

Category: Tesla

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50 responses to "Tesla Details First “Pilot Program” Battery Swap Station"
  1. Steve says:

    This reads like:
    Designed to harvest last years CARB credits, and designed not to be succesful as a serious option.
    Which is good, because battery swap is pure nonsense both financially as technically.

    Who needs swapping anyway with 300 miles of range and fast charging?

    1. peet365 says:

      100% agree.

      1. kdawg says:

        “Who needs swapping anyway with 300 miles of range and fast charging?”
        Comes down to time. Time is money. Time is convenience.

        If you want to spend less time, and get more convenience, you will pay for the battery swap.

        What’s wrong w/options?

        I can’t predict the future of DCFC, or the future of battery tech, but if 135kW is where we are going to settle for the next 10 years, I think battery swapping could be viable.

        1. Ocean Railroader says:

          Battery swapping reminds me of something they had in the 1920’s for low range electric cars.

          I think the price of a battery swap would be a bigger factor in how it works out. In that if they charge $80 to $50 for a battery swap that would be to steep. If they charge $20 to $40 for a battery swap it might work out.

          1. kdawg says:

            Isn’t is supposed to be priced at the same amount as “a full tank of gas”. So i’m thinking around $55 to $65 since that statement was made when gas was over $3/gal.

        2. Mint says:

          I know Tesla owners are generally rich, but there can’t be that many who have such low regard for their money.

          If it’s $50 for a swap, then supercharging is the equivalent of being paid $100/hr for killing time however you want to (eating, calling family, surfing the web, etc).

          1. Stuart22 says:

            The passage of time is a detriment to the swapping concept.

            Swapping out one’s battery out of a six-month old Tesla for a used battery of unknown age is going to cause more angst five years from now than now. I wonder what Tesla has in mind for addressing this.

            1. kdawg says:

              You are supposed to be able to get your original back. I’m also guessing there will be quality control checking the health of batteries. Ones that don’t cut it will be removed from the ASRS.

    2. Jouni Valkonen says:

      Not just carb benefits that are limiting into California, but also Tesla gets a lot free publicity and global media attention. And they also try to create some additional hype.

      Also important point is that this is an argument for General EV discussion. Range anxiety is not a real problem because it could be mitigated with battery swapping, but there is no markets for battery swapping. And hence range anxiety is not a relevant issue.

    3. Chris says:

      Innovators experiment. I’m going to assume that you’ve been wrong about everything Elon has done thus far. One of the greatest innovators of our time is being lambasted by armchair quarterbacks with selective ideals. Keep pretending that government incentives are a new concept and exclusive to liberals.

      1. GeorgeS says:

        Exclusive to liberals?
        Just shoot me.
        It’s like reading comments at the WSJ.

        1. Chris says:

          Tesla is not perfect and there are some legitimate questions about EVs, but critics harping on CARB or ZEV credits are ignoring the myriad of benefits because of their opposition to subsidies, which are not unique.

          1. Ocean Railroader says:

            I’m starting to think that CARB credits are starting to handicap the electric car industry in that they seem to favor low range electric cars and blow large volumes of tax payer money on hydrogen stations.

    4. Chris says:

      The battery swap has been delayed because of the enormously positive response to the Superchargers, which became the priority. If there is demand for it and a fair way of separating the ownership of the car from the ownership of the battery, Tesla will move forward. The battery swap concept requires many more cars on the road to be viable, so it’s prudent to test it like this before the Model 3 enters full production. But they should forget it, because they are a welfare corp and internet troll Steve says it’s a bad idea and a scam.

      1. Philip says:

        Thanks Chris. You said it well. 🙂

        1. Ocean Railroader says:

          Tesla is in better shape for battery swapping from a numbers stand point compared to say better place. And if they are only going to build one battery changing station first and not depend on it for their existence then they are in good shape if the idea falls apart.

          1. Steve says:

            Agree, let’s stop after 1 station.
            It would kill Tesla if they go down the battery swapping path. See my analysis below in response to being called a troll 🙂

    5. CherylG's_DirtyLittleSecret says:

      You act like “Gaming the system” is illegal.
      You’re just pissy because you didn’t (couldn’t?) do it yourself.

      GM games the system *almost* as good as Tesla.

      1. Mint says:

        He doesn’t sound pissy at all.

    6. koz says:

      It would be needed much if 300 real world mile packs were available for <$10,000. Too bad we're close on neither. 300 mile packs may be available next year or 2017 but it will be long time before there will be one in a $30k car.

    7. Roger Atkins says:

      Fixed point charging works well – but has issues. Utilisation of expensive real estate is not best served by parked cars on charge for 30 minutes plus… High throughput and avoidance of ICE’d up charge facilities will be issues as the EV parc grows. Specifically with fleets such as Taxis, duty cycle/range/cost can be configured to pack size more appropriately with the use of the swap model. I’d also mix in some wireless charge for good measure. It is unlikely to work well in my view for the public in the short term – but it will work well for fleets in my view. There are some large Taxi fleets going into operation as we speak of course – like the at Schiphol in Amsterdam. A pilot project makes sense. I wish them well.

  2. Anon says:

    I knew the retrofitted shields would add delays and complexity to the process.

    Glad the thing is finally up, and trolls can STFU about it.

    Too bad it’s located in the stenchiest place in California. :p

    1. TomArt says:

      Trolls will troll…see Steve above…

      1. Steve says:

        It’s a bit sad that a critical remark makes me a troll immediately. A good discussion is key to innovation.

        I am a long time EV driver and enthousiast, and big Tesla fan. But I am also a techie & business guy, and did some financial math on batteryswapping. Although from a consumer point of view it may sound great, from a business perspective it would kill Tesla if they go down that path, so I hope they don’t.

        Basically the Capital needed for the inventory (each station having 10-20 batteries in stock) will kill Tesla. batteries are a very fast depreciating asset. Imagine scaling that to thousands of swap stations, all with inventory.

        Secondly it would strongly limit innovation at tesla. They would need to start standardizing their battery formats, which limits their potential to make good future cars.
        Else each station needs to keep 10-20 bateries of multiple types in stock. Imagine thousands of swap stations with each 50-100 batteries in stock, a very fast depreciating asset and a huge burden on their capital.
        It would kill tesla.

        This is part of what killed Better Place, and I hope nobody makes the same misstake again.

        1. Stuart22 says:

          I was wondering who would remember the Better Place fiasco first – the guy who is branded a troll, or those who consider Tesla an all-powerful religion beyond criticism or question.

          1. Stuart22 says:

            Sorry, Lensman – I didn’t get down to your post yet, before giving Steve the honors of first mentioning Better Place.

            Battery swapping is best suited for highly focused, temporary events such as auto racing (Tesla at Le Mans, perhaps?). It’s too expensive for mass public availability, and too susceptible to obsolescence as time and technology marches on.

        2. SeattleTeslaGuy says:

          I think it’s fine for Tesla to try different things but I predict in the fullness of time, this won’t even qualify for a foot note in the development of the EV (that will be reserved for Better Place). Perhaps there will be a brief mention along the lines of “tried something that already had failed”.

  3. Lensman says:

    I also am dubious about the battery swap program. It was obviously unworkable (much too expensive) when Better Place tried to base their business model on doing that. At least Telsa is merely sticking a toe in the water, not basing their company’s entire financial structure on battery swapping.

    Battery recharge times are coming down rapidly, and in fact the CTO of Telsa was quoted not long ago saying that 5 to 10 minutes is the goal for future Tesla cars. Battery swapping will only be worth paying for if battery recharge time is significantly longer than 10 minutes, so at best a battery swap program would likely only last a decade or so before becoming obsolete.

  4. kdawg says:

    I wonder if a battery swap station will ever get ICEd.

    1. Brian says:

      Yeah, they would have a hard time in a state with a real winter. If the ice doesn’t get them, the road crud will!

      1. Just think – Enclosed Car Wash – like those in Minnesota or North Dakota! You go inside through Roll up doors, Wash the Car (or) Swap the battery, and the exit door rolls up and out you go.

        Oh – and there are these things called – ‘Pickups’, that have a business – called: ‘Snow Removal Services’ that do Private driveways, so I am sure they can clear around a Swap Station Building, just as easy!

        1. Brian says:

          Yeah we have enclosed car washes in NY too. You are correct that a simple undercarraige wash would solve the problem.

          This was just my sad attempt at humor. I’m sure you are aware that kdawg was referring to the thing being blocked by Internal Combustion Engine vehicles, right?

          1. kdawg says:

            No, I meant ICEd as in a gas car blocking it, like what happens with charging stations now.

            1. kdawg says:

              Oops, just read your last post.. At first I was thinking “He has to know what this means.” LOL

  5. Spec9 says:

    I’d like some car companies to get together and at least START talking about battery standardization so they could maybe create a standardized battery that is swappable. I don’t expect to have such a battery any time soon . . . mayb 10 to 25 years from now. But at least start talking about it so they can come up with the best design that will work with most car types.

    1. Bonaire says:

      Batteries should be about as easy to standardize as would be the film and camera industry. Maybe some day – but not in the infancy of EVs.

      1. offib says:

        Err, em… Isn’t that what BetterPlace tried to do? It sounds simple, but it’s extrodinary to think that even two automakes can agree on a standardisation of one pack.

        I don’t think that there’s even two EVs out there that share the same pack. The LEAF’s slightly differs from the e-NV200’s, yet both cars are said to be exactly the same. The e-Golf and e-Up! have packs that replace the space that the exhausts and what else that’s been removed, and both have different tailor made packs. While the Fluence Z.E’s pack was just a lazy slump that compromised the vehicle, to which I doubt any other manufacturer would like to adopt.

        Maybe, just maybe if cells become that compact (a decade or two from now at this pace), some cars might share batteries or even modules. One car might hold more modules than another because it’s large enough. The two utterly different classes of cars (i.e, i3 and Model S) can use the same swapping station where a longer range vehicle like a Model S equivalent can physically hold more modules for more range while the smaller equivalent can do with what it can hold with the same modules.

        That’s my little dream to standardised packs.

        Yet ultimately, most will choose rapid charging over swapping (superchargers are free) and many (in normal EVs) would prefer home charging over rapid charging (because it’s easier). Swapping stations may look good on paper to anyone (just like how FCEVs are unquestionably praised), but the experience might differ in the real world.

      2. Batteries for EV’s, unlike film, have issues of Chemistry, Cell Packaging Format, Pack Designs (to suit the next point), Car Designs (including size, Length, width, & height), and more.

        At Best you could hope for – is a single mfg makes a Pack Size that has the fewest Size Variations for their Brand, since you often don’t get a new engine for your Chevy, from Toyota, for instance!

        Unlike robotic Tool Storage units that use trays to store a selection of Production Tools in towers on trays, set in Racks, the Battery Swap elements include physical size, power and energy capacities, Charge rate capabilities, and more.

  6. offib says:

    Lads, I just thought of something devilish.

    Perhaps in around 15 years or after a substantial amount of miles that renders the pack way out of warranty, what if some clever chancer decided to try out the battery swap once and drove away with a different pack?

    Sounds like a good way to get a fresh pack from Tesla for $80.

    1. Josh says:

      Tesla would be happy to have you do that. They track the vehicle swaps and hold your pack for you. If you don’t come to return it, they send you the cost of the upgrade. At least that was part of the business plan originally.

      Make it easy for someone to spend $5k – $10k on a battery upgrade.

      1. offib says:

        Oh… I feel like Tesla is a step or several a head of me.

        Regardless, if I could own a Model S (now_, a $10,000 bill wouldn’t make a bit of a difference to me. I could in ten years or fifteen years if they could depreciate enough to under 5 grand second hand, and by then the price of a pack would be vastly different than the rather guessed $5-10k.

      2. no comment says:

        while the battery swap is a technical solution, from an economic point it is a non-starter. one of the advantages of electric cars is that they are supposed to cost less/mile than ICE vehicle, but the battery swap makes the costs of EVs several times that of an ICE on a cost/mile basis. then you add the costs of making the customer have to retrieve his original battery after a swap and that makes this scheme constructively impractical. who would want the hassle of the extra cost and time involved?

        1. ‘Swapping’ has never been a wide-spread practical solution for EV’s, but rather an idea to salve the impatient who think standing with their hand on a Gas Pump Nozzle and breathing the Fumes in most places, for 4 – 10 minutes, is better than plugging in their EV at a Quick Charge Station in 30 seconds, and then taking a break from driving for 20 – 40 minutes while they hit the restrooms, wash, grab a bite to eat, and stretch their legs!

          Having Said that – having Swap Stations near service Centres, for Quick Swapping out and changing of customers batteries while they are pulled aside to test, review, upgrade, etc. could be a value in itself.

          Also – using a Swap Station as a store to ‘buy a new one’ could be set up: You pull up – the car talks to the station host Computer and identifies itself, it asks you if you want to swap a same size battery, a larger battery, or a smaller batter; then it asks if you are renting it for a trip, or upgrading for keeps; asks if you want to use billing information on file or enter new billing information; and then you pull ahead – with the car guided onto the set point, and stop. and in 3 minutes you leave, ba-da-bing, ba-da-boom!

          1. SeattleTeslaGuy says:

            Agree with much of that save for one point. It’s not for the impatient. It’s about countering the “charging takes too long” perception and harvesting CARB credits which are biased towards the H2 FVCs. In the end, it will occupy a special place in the dust bin of history.

            1. no comment says:

              you two are EV enthusiasts. musk realizes that for EV technology to be commercially viable it must appeal to more than EV enthusiasts. most people are not fixated with the issue of whether or not a car is propelled by an electric motor, they primarily just want to get where they want to go. such people will compare EVs and ICEs and one of the things that they will look at is how long it takes to refill versus how long it takes to recharge. they will see 5 minutes for a refill versus 30-60 minutes for a recharge which makes the latter a less appealing option.

              so with the battery swap option, musk is not attempting to appeal to EV enthusiasts: those are already “the believers”; musk is trying to appeal to the larger body of non-believers. the problem is, while the battery swap option looks like a good *technical* solution, it is so expensive compared to an ICE that it is a terrible economic solution. so while battery swap is a good idea to address a known issue, it is not a viable one from a market perspective.

  7. MrEnergyCzar says:

    How do you know you aren’t getting an older battery?

    1. Smeghead says:

      Why would it matter? The swap is temporary, not permanent.

      You swap back to your original battery on the way back, or you get charged for it if you don’t.

  8. ffbj says:

    Telegraph presents Tesla Model S as the most important care introduced in the last 2 decades:

    1. ffbj says:

      Also their car of the year. Respond to the poll if you read the article, and agree with their premise. I did and I do.

  9. Tom says:

    Say there are 100,000 Teslas in California. Say 50000 were to use a battery swap facility. You would need a lot of batteries on hand. This would be not cost effective. Also you are going to have to pay tax when you swap your battery