New Tesla Patent Shows A Trailer-based Battery Swap Station

2 months ago by Sebastian Blanco 23

Tesla battery swap patent drawingThe idea of swapping the battery in your Tesla Model S is a dream that many of us thought had faded away.

Tesla’s former Harris Ranch battery swap station (via Kman Auto)

With the closure of the one and only Tesla swap station and CEO Elon Musk saying that when it was open, there was a “very low take rate” for the service, one would think that the automaker wasn’t interested in this sort of thing any more. And yet, despite the lack of any working on-the-ground swapping stations today, Tesla is still filing patents for the technology. Last year, we saw a detailed look at just how the EV automaker could exchange spent packs for new ones, and today we found another one.

Tesla filed a patent for “Battery Swapping System And Techniques” just a few months ago, in May 2017. The filing describes a way to, you guessed it, exchange an EV’s battery for a new one. The patent is quite vague, and doesn’t get into any of the negatives that Musk has elucidated in the past. It simply says:

Because the process of charging such cells usually takes some amount of time, some vehicles are designed so that the battery can be replaced with another battery, to replenish power in the vehicle or to address malfunction in the current battery.

Tesla Battery Swap PatentThe system described here might need at least one technician to be working at the swap station. The patent says that this, “can reduce or eliminate the need for the system to have vision components, which may otherwise be needed to align the battery pack or other components.” The station doesn’t have to be built into a single location, either, since:

A battery-swapping system can be implemented on top of a trailer for increased mobility. Generally, the battery-swapping operations should be performed in an enclosed or at least covered location. For example, a trailer can be custom built with sides that pop out for increased space, and ramps on either side so the vehicle can be driven in and out of the battery-swapping facility. Depleted batteries can be charged at the location of the swapping system (e.g., using grid power or other electric resource) or fully charged battery packs can be delivered to the location.

A swap with this system could take “less than fifteen minutes.” If we ever see it in the real world, of course.

Source: USPTO

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23 responses to "New Tesla Patent Shows A Trailer-based Battery Swap Station"

  1. RM says:

    Battery swaps, or parallel supercharging, are both in play for the Tesla Semi. We’ll find out at the end of October.

    1. KumarP says:

      Yes, I was thinking that was the focus here.

  2. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

    Well, this might be a way for Tesla to deal with the problem of a fully autonomous car making a coast-to-coast trip without being able to plug itself in at a Supercharger. But that would likely require at least one truck following the car, or meeting it at regular intervals, and that truck would have to have a driver who perhaps would operate the battery swap mechanism, or more likely there would need to be a technician riding in the truck to perform that procedure.

    If there has to be an operator/technician there, why not just use a chase car and have the driver of that car plug the autonomous car in at Supercharger stations when needed?

    The lack of details in the patent seems to suggest this is just an idea somebody at Tesla had, which they decided to patent without going to the trouble of fully fleshing out the concept. Sadly, this sort of speculative patent is all too common these days.

    1. Viking79 says:

      All you need to go coast to coast is have a few superchargers with attendants that can plug in autonomous cars.

      Battery swapping was originally done to take advantage of a loophole with CA ZEV credits, not to actually be useful for much.

  3. MorinMoss says:

    Rumor has it that Model 3 is not swap-capable but no official word as yet.

    1. ffbj says:

      It’s well know it is a different design, not amenable to swapping.

      1. ffbj says:

        “Unlike the Model S and Model X battery pack, Tesla didn’t make the Model 3 battery pack to be easily swappable. There are bolts, which are only accessible by removing trims from the interior of the car, that need to be removed in order to eject the pack.”Electek

  4. Tom K says:

    it could also be towed behind a service vehicle to swap out a failed or failing battery in a model s, x or 3. The trailer could tow the replacement battery and perform the swap out at a customer’s home.

    1. Viking79 says:

      This is my thought as well, this has to be for service of the vehicle. Reduce load at service centers. However, battery swaps should not be common, but it might be easier to do this instead of towing the vehicle. I couldn’t tell you how many Volts I have heard that were towed for even a dead 12V battery. Such a waste, just send a tech to the car.

  5. Perhaps this is to expand their mobile servicing capabilities? They have been focusing on trying to fix as many problems as possible at the customer’s location, increasing their repair capacity without increasing their repair shop footprint. Any problem that is battery-related could be fixed at in this manner with this. Maybe it’ll be a complete lift and offer other repairs as well.

    1. sveno says:

      +1

      This is what I’m thinking. Maybe some Semis will serve as F.L.A.G. mobile units 😉

  6. Shaun says:

    I agree with the others that are saying this is likely meant for mobile battery servicing, instead of a Supercharger alternative like the last swap station was for.

    1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      I find the idea rather unlikely, since Model S’s had to be specially modified to accept a battery swap. That’s one of the reasons Tesla’s lone battery swap station was so little used.

      1. A bit backwards on that mod! The Mod interefered with the Swap – stretching it from 90 Seconds to longer, about 3-5 minutes, I think was the number.

        The Mod was the Titanium Deflection plate at the forward end of the Pack, added to crush stuff that might damage the Battery Pack.

        The Model S was designed with a directly bottom accessable Battery Installation build process.

  7. Bret says:

    Looking at the nose cone on the Model S, I’m guessing this patent is a couple of years old.

  8. Bacardi says:

    Several luxury makers offer petro valets…Perhaps this will be something similar but due to the cost must be uber expensive…Yet the only benefit I really see is if you want to go to restaurant during your road trip and you schedule the battery “valet” to meet you while eating…

    1. Bacardi says:

      Strange part is, with fully autonomous around the corner, could send your car off to charge while dining at your favorite restaurant that doesn’t have a fast charger…

  9. Spider-Dan says:

    Wait, is there another gov’t program to give extra EV credits for battery swap capability?

    Seems like that was the only reason Tesla ran this program the first time.

  10. speculawyer says:

    I think battery swapping is dead. Apparently you can’t remove the Model 3 battery without lifting up the floorboards inside the Model 3.

  11. I3 says:

    Battery swaps doesn’t sound godd for trucks either because of the waiting time, trucks may simple line up for the swap and that’s not good either

  12. Captain Jack says:

    I see this as a service a common Gas Station could offer. The whole system could be contained in a shipping container that can be delivered to the site. Robot could handle removing and replacing the battery in less than 90 seconds. The used battery could enter the shipping container for recharging and preparing it for the next vehicle. The container would only need at least 20 battery packs to maintain service 24 hours a day. (batteries only take about 20-30 minutes to recharge).

  13. John says:

    As stupid as swapping a gas tank.

  14. Empire State says:

    With this system on a trailer, a company could service a temporarily over-subscribed locality’s EV recharging needs, but to do that, you’d need to be able to bring the trailer to the site, and for that you’d need…oh wait…

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