Tesla Performs Live Demo of Model S Battery Swapping – 90 Seconds (w/videos)

JUN 21 2013 BY JAY COLE 64

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

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

Leave it to Tesla to always put on a big show; no basic press releases here as Elon Musk took his customary stage front position to introduce the world to battery swap technology all over again.  (and please don’t talk about Better Place’s failures at Tesla’s Hawthorne Design Studio tonight)

Two Model S sedans hit the stage (red and white), and Tesla went 2 for 2 on the swap, both in under 90 seconds, while footage of a single gas car being refuelled played on a screen above the demo.

Tesla Model S "Electric Refueling" Vs The Traditional Gas Station Stop

Tesla Model S “Electric Refueling” Vs The Traditional Gas Station Stop

...sombody loves crushed velvet

…sombody loves crushed velvet

For the swap itself, cars are driven up on rails, much like at a car wash, then the car is lifted somewhat off the ground to take weight off the wheels, and an automated swap happens underneath.  From there you go about your extended drive and return Tesla’s pack later.  Neat stuff.

“I think it is important for us to address concerns that people have, we need to address the reasons that people aren’t buying electric cars. People need to feel that they have the same level of freedom as a gasoline car.” – CEO Elon Musk at demonstration

Tesla Tweets Out Some Info On Battery Swapping

Tesla Tweets Out Some Info On Battery Swapping

You can also choose to keep the pack, and Tesla will “bill you the difference” later if your borrowed pack is newer.

As for the stations themselves, they will be situated on the busiest corridors first (think I-5 in California out of the gate, and with the Boston-D.C area to follow) – future stations will be selected based on consumer demand; which makes sense as Tesla’s pegs the cost at around $500,000 a depot.

Each station is said to house around 50 battery packs per station for consumer swaps, with the first coming online by year’s end.

Past, Present And Future Model S Cars All Benefit From This New Development

Past, Present And Future Model S Cars All Benefit From This New Development

The 90-Second Guarantee

The 90-Second Guarantee

What is the cost for a battery swap?

Tesla did not put an exact number on it during the presentation itself, but Elon Musk stated that it will be equivalent to around a tank of gas…unfortunately we are not talking about a car that has an equivalent fuel efficiency to the Tesla Model S sedan’s 88 MPGe rating.  Think more of a light truck, as numbers like $60-$80 an exchange were thrown around.

Tesla Wants To Make You Forget All About This

Tesla Wants To Make You Forget All About This

It should also be noted that users will pay the swap price both on the initial exchange and when they return to pick up their old pack (fully charged).

Tesla does note that for people not so keen on returning to the swap station or keeping the new pack indefinitely, drivers can continue to use the borrowed pack, and Tesla will return their original pack at the owner’s request for a yet-to-be-determined “transport fee.”

Mr. Musk feels Tesla’s supercharging stations are still the main way to go for a recharge on the fly, but if the consumer is in a hurry, or is unconcerned with the traditional cost of a gas fill-up or two, the battery swap is a viable option…and removes yet another barrier in the minds of people when it comes to purchasing an all-electric car.

Question most heard during the presentation?  Can I swap out my 60 kWh battery pack for a 85 kWh one?  Yes, you can.  You can even keep it forever; just be prepared for a serious invoice in the mail.


Check out the video stream of the entire battery swap demonstration below:

Front row spectator prospective of the swap (YouTube via TeslaMotorsClub)

Full 15-minute video presentation below.

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64 Comments on "Tesla Performs Live Demo of Model S Battery Swapping – 90 Seconds (w/videos)"

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Every oil industry executive is swapping his underpants right about now.

LMAO!!!! L 🙂 L

The Arabs don’t have any!

Great work getting this out so fast Jay. I have been refreshing the Tesla website for almost an hour now.

The intern in charge of posting the official video must have gotten into the bubbly. I can’t see how anyone (not concerned with the cost) would not be impressed with the demo. Also all 60 kWh owners are rejoicing that they will never be obsolete on pack size/technology.

This future proofs every Model S being sold today.

Tesla is hurting me tonight, past 2 am on New York time now…still no streaming video or press release. So, I don’t want to hear anything from the “grammar/spelling” cops tonight, its only me running the ship here at InsideEVs right now, (=

Haha great stuff again Jay! But I still don’t know. It doesn’t sound overly efficient to have to return to the samen station, otherwise they ship it back to you…

I’d feel better about all this if Tesla waranted all battery packs for life (free changeouts).. But if enough consumers object, Musk may rightly decide to make all batteries free for the first 250,000 miles. In other words instead of you buying a battery with your car, you are actually buying the right to a pool of batteries for the first 250k. This would avoid the worry of getting stuck with someone else’s dud battery… If you did get stuck with one you’d just swap it out again.

A trickle charge on the remaining packs saves his accountants paying monster electricity demand charges at the free fill up fast chargers.. So it would not surprise me if Musk quietly migrated over to this changeout plan eventually… We didn’t see what was going on underneath, but assumedly, there are no gotchas there….

And Musk, always the showman, probably made the stock price go up again.

When you swap your pack out, you agree to return back to the same station to get your original pack back. If you don’t, you will pay the difference.

“Swapping will take 90secs. You’ll never get out of your car. Return the pack on your journey back or keep it & we’ll bill you the difference”

The difference in kWh I assume? What if you swap a 60kWh pack with a 85kWh one?

kWh and age. So if you trade in a 3 year old 60kWh pack for a new 85kWh pack, then they’ll bill you the $10K difference in pack size, as well as an aging premium (probably based on the number of months or number of miles driven on the pack).

Near as I can tell the only person who mentioned $99 was some random guy on twitter. It will actually be based on a 15 gallon tank using premium, which Elon figured was between $60-$80 per swap. The only question is whether that is a fee, or if you are paying for energy used (ie, do you pay the same amount if you drop off an empty battery vs one that is half full).

You can pretty much bet that the cost will be fixed per swap regardless of how charged your original pack is.

The man filling the Audi with gasoline ended up paying about $100 for that tank of gas. Since Elon was comparing the time to him, it should be fair to compare the cost as well.

How far can that Audi drive on $100 of gas? 25 MPG at $4.199/gal makes 600 miles. At least twice as far as a Model S can go on an 85 kwh battery. So it would be fair to pay $50 for the battery swap, not $100.

You saw it first on INSIDE EVS.COM – As a cheapskate Scottish guy ( I mean FRUGAL! ) I would never do this with my Model S. I can sip a latte, browse the web, use the facility and play Angry Birds while getting my free Supercharger fillup in 30 minutes. But the ability to do so frees up everyone and completely hushes all EV critics. I’m still disappointed greatly that Elon has been pretty much saying he’ll leave Tesla in 5 years after the “3rd gen”, or “Model A “Affordable” comes out. I just pain at the thought of GM, Mercedes or Toyota buying them out and basically shutting it down. Remember, I’m in Seattle where an NBA ownership group of Oklahomans bought our Seattle SuperSonics from Starbucks founder Howard Shultz on the sworn promise they wanted to make a go of it here. After emails were intercepted where the Okies promised getting the NBA team to Oklahoma City was job 1 – we lost our fight to keep the team here. I just don’t buy it when double-minded executives or politicians promise anything. Let me get it in writing! There’s so many people who would do anything to… Read more »

He just said he was only going to run 1 company, he didn’t say which one.

You and I have different ideas of frugal. A cheapskate probably would never buy a latte, let alone a $60k+ car.

Frugal and unwilling to bow anymore to Big Oil barons and foreigners
with oil who would rather kill us than have our freedoms.

You’d be surprised how many very successful people are cheapskates.

I bought a home latte maker for $100.00. So far it’s paid for itself six
times over. I’m in Seattle where a Starbucks or roadside latte stand
exists every 5 feet. My wife just couldn’t say no…At $5.00 a shot
for a cup o’ Joe – this solved a money drain. Plus I can make my
sweetie a nice frothy treat each morning and it scores big points.

So a 60kwh Model S owner can upgrade his car in 90 seconds to an 85kwh Model S. Same thing if bigger packs arrive… crazy 🙂

Thats what seemed appealing to me – I see the skateboard chassis and battery footprint staying the same for Tesla’s models for a long time (~10-15 years at least), so it really comes down to how fast battery tech advances so that on long distance drives you swap out smaller packs (60, 85kWh) for larger packs (125kWh) to go longer distances between charging.

The plentiful Tweets and showmanship go on! At this breathtaking pace –
I fully expect Mr. Musk to announce a super suit made of unobtainium that
he’ll wear to protect the free world from tyranny and terrorists – in about a


Whoopie – now, let’s get back to earth and see the Tesla scheme for what it promises….

$500k per swap station – what does that money buy? Musk compares swapping to filling up a tank of gas…. a typical gas station can service 8 to 12 cars at any given time; how many cars will be serviced at any given moment in time at one of these $500k stations? One?

‘The battery swap is as fast or faster than filling a tank of gas’. So what – this is not a refueling issue for drivers. If anything, a driver’s angst is waiting in line to fill up. Will Tesla swap stations guarantee no lines?

You forget that almost all “refueling” of EVs is performed at the owner’s home, overnight. Virtually 0% of ICE refueling occurs at home. Obviously, the demand to refuel ICEs at a gas station is far, far higher than the demand to refuel an EV on the road.

Correct. Demand will be much less at swapping stations (supply) will be built per demand.

Don’t underestimate the holiday problem. During national holidays (especially Independence Day and Thanksgiving), lots of Americans travel long distances. There is usually a line at gas stations. At “Tesla Stations” as Elon calls them, there will be even longer lines.

Of course, I will rejoice when we see that because it means EVs have reached critical mass.

Don’t you see the opportunity of Tesla-licensed stations popping
up all over including existing gas stations? So many lvl 2 public
chargers are so lame and expensive – perhaps SCs will become
a standard along with Tesla swapping bays.

Grocery store Tesla swapping stops, big box store and shopping
mall locations, even Mom and Pop Tesla swapping locations….

We cannot be short-sighted.

If the Tesla models ( SCs and Swap Stations ) work while the others
not-so-much….I’d think the superior format would prevail. Too early
to tell with SAE-Combo and ChadeMo heating up very slowly. But
I know from experience how lousy and expensive some public EVSEs

All the money Musk will be investing to combat range anxiety makes me wonder why he didn’t just come out with an EREV model, and let time allow battery technology advances get to a point where range and recharging time are no longer buyer issues.

I am thinking exactly the same.

I also wonder why? Perhaps Elon thinks a bit to much forward and thinks he must be able to drive a Tesla even on mars where a rex woundn’t work.

Elon long ago has said that his goals are for renewable powered transportation – he hates gas.

For the little a rex has to work renewable biofuel would be just as fine and EV’s would be readily available right now for everybody instead of just a few.

Did you notice that Elon almost said supercapacitor at 1:31.
If supercapacitors are on Elon’s mind, then I suspect that soon there will be a suppercapacitor pack that can recharge in even less time than swaping the battery. So this swaping station will be a very cleaver way and a cheap way for Tesla to upgrade your pack to a supper capacitor.

Infact a 300Wh/kg capacitor is already out and has been for years! The battery pack that the model S has has less than 300 Wh/kg. So you will get a fater charging with a supercapacitor and a longer range!

Here is the link of the 300 Wh/kg capacitor




Did you notice they used Audi for this demo?:))
Btw Audi fired R&D chief who have buried R8 e-tron and A1 e-tron
Great news!

No EREV because Musk knows better than to undertake vast projects with half-vast plans.

An EREV has a half-vast gas engine and a half-vast battery and electric motor. And two half-vasts just make a large half-vast.

Here’s Tesla’s official video about this:

Indeed. Tesla took their sweet time putting that up…I could only last to about 2:45 am before I threw in the towel. (not quote the 9:30/12:30 Eastern that was first announced, lol)

It is embedded in the article (above) now!

And I’m sure you’re embedded now too. 🙂

I really am disappointed not to have an hypercharge demo instead of a battery swap. It feels like we had better place battery swap and hurrah we have Tesla battery swap, so what’s new? I also start to have serious questions on economics. At first free electricity for supercharge that no one explains where the free money is coming from and now an 80 $ swap to replace a 20 minutes supercharge wait time. This means the equivalent of paying 240 $/h. On the free electricity side, it means that Tesla is overpricing the car to make a financial reserve to pay for future electricity uses or they figured out that people would not come all too often to the supercharging station and so it would be a relatively small amount. However if supercharge stations become widespread they could find themselves in a tricky situation where people start to take electricity in the supercharge station just because it is free instead of recharging at home. In that case the electricity consumption and cost will increase in an unbearable way. As for what the objective of a 50% margin on Tesla sales is concerned I start to wonder if Elon doesn’t… Read more »

I believe Elon said the cost of the superchargers and electricity is built into the price of the car. I assume the additional cost of the swap station portion, will be paid for by those who pay for swaps. Supply will follow demand.

I sure hope so. I don’t think many Model S owners would like the idea that they are heavily subsidizing a swap station they may use twice per year. I’m thinking these swap stations will be used only a few times a day, so if 5 times, then about 1500 over 5 years. At a cost of over $500k/ station this is about $350 per swap (and probably significantly higher).

SuperCharge stations will never be anywhere near as common as gas stations. That is not the intent. They are only for inter-city trips. Most charging will be at home and opportunity charging at work or shopping plazas etc.

I still do not understand how this will be implemented in real world? How many packs has to be reserved? In order not keeping big battery stock batteries shall be charged quickly anyway…Shall driver has to preorder battery swap everytime at least starting the trip? If it is alowed receiving battery back my battery will be not used as general stock and will increase battery stock volume….
It could be the same story as with cues at supercharges at mall outlets.

Had a chance to see battery swapping in slovakia (company called greenway) for electric vans and was pretty impressed. Swapping might be the medicine to emobility.

I have some concerns about the mechanics of the swapping. How will this work in a very snowy/wet/muddy car? What if the torque wrenches can’t fit into the bolt holes? This may work great in California, but would like to see a real-world demo not in an indoor environment.

I wonder when Tesla is going to release detailed information about the swapping mechanism.

I have serious doubts, that they have tested the system in real world environment. Development time seems much too short. Expect lot of “out of order” signs during winter time, or they will simply install them only in regions with nearly never snow.

Found this:

“Each unit will store about 50 battery packs that customers will borrow for the price of an equivalent tank of gasoline, Musk said. Users’ credit cards will be automatically billed, and the loaner packs can be returned to the charging station and replaced with the customer’s own pack, fully charged, he said.”

That was pretty neat to watch. Not being able to see the mechanics of the operation very well, I wonder how much this really differs from the now-defunct Better Place swapping operation? It doesn’t appear there is a great difference on the surface.

I think Tesla wants this to be just an option for people in an absolute hurry, and nothing more. These swapping operations will be more costly, and having more moving parts than the supercharging stations. Therefore, don’t expect to see a lot of swapping stations. I do think it is great to see a company like this go and shoot down one-by-one the objections of the skeptics. Well done.

The PBP had these hooks that would rotate to hold the pack. From what I can assume, Tesla is just using a torque wrench (or several) mounted on some tooling that is attached to a servo arm to align it to the car. I’m just concerned about how this works in a non-hospital environment. What if the threads are stripped on the bolts? Do they get new ones for each swap or do the bolts stay with the battery?

Yeah, as I said before, there are a lot of moving parts for the swapping option vs. the supercharging. And with more complexity usually comes more opportunities for problems. I wonder as you do how this works in the “real world”.

Stock prices are to the moon so Elon spent some money on marketing just not in the traditional way. Instead of flashy adds he gets every bit of the mileage out of two swapping stations. He simply crushes the anxiety argument which for those of us who actually drive an EV could care less about such swapping technology. I love Elon’s spin “Do you want fast or free?” Brilliant! I’ll take free sir! Case closed… I can still hear the nay sayers this morning “but but but.. uh..? but but but.. uh..? Yes Kdawg, bring on the suit.

If you buy the 60 kwh version super charging is 2500$ so it’s not free.

I just priced out a 60 kwh version.

all I added was air suspension and supercharging and it comes to 66400$.

take off 7500$ and add tax and license and you are at 65400$.

The most interesting part is that all the water cooling connections are quick disconnect AND it appears that no human was under there doing the connections.

Really impressive.

Color me impressed when I can see exactly what’s happening. Dealing with automation for many years, sh!t can go wrong, and usually does. I need to see how reliable this is.

Yeh your right. We don’t know for sure what human involvement there was as it was pretty well hidden. There very well could have been someone under there making water connections. It would be interesting to see more detail.

I assume it’s all automated, but automation can fail. You need to think of every worse case scenario, to see determine how robust of a design it will be.


Will it be compatible with the Model X?

Isn’t the model x built on the same platform as the S?

Yes to both

So now there’s just one objection left. Price. When Elon does the dog and pony show for that one, I’ll be ready to buy.

Being one of the relatively few 40kwh owners, I am somewhat excited about this from a selfish perspective. I’m in South Florida so it may be a long time before a swap station is in my neck of the woods. Since super charging would cost me $12,000, the idea of a swap to take my car on a out of town trip is very intriguing. The 40kwh packs were never put into production, so clearly the impetus for swapping stations is not for the 60/40kwh owners. I agree with others that the business case may be tough to make for 85kwh Model S owners. It makes more sense for the 60kwh models but I’m not sure there is value to make a long term business case, particularly at the volume projected for Model S. Fortunately for Tesla, they can think past their nose unlike many companies. There is the Model X coming, larger packs will be coming, and most importantly the Bluestar models will be coming. Musk’s goal is to get to mainstream Bluestar production. Battery costs are still a long way off for an affordable (<$35k) 250 mile range model. Swapping allows buyers to match the battery size they… Read more »

One concern I have from reviewing the Model S battery pack design is with the geometry. It is design around the Model S wheelbase. For swapping to make sense long term, I would expect that battery packs would need to be interchangeable between Model S and future models. My understanding is that the more affordable platform being developed will have a shorter wheelbase. I don’t see how the Model S pack can be interchangeable with a shorter wheelbase.

Of course the biggest concern is where do all of the packs come from if the car owners own there own pack? Once the 50 station packs are swapped into cars and only car owner packs are left, what happens? Is that station out of service until a car owner returns a “rentable” pack?

Either it will take lot more packs ultimately or it is envisioned to be a rarely used service…or…Tesla plans to also offer cars without packs and charge a battery service fee a la Better Place model. This could allow for a small premium sedan in the $20k range or a more basic, economical model in the $15k range. Perhaps this could augment and not replace their pack included sales model.

Well done Elon!

Just go online and check if a 85Kw battery is available, reserve online, drive up, swap out in under 2 mins while sitting in your car and then off on your road trip with longer range and no need for gas!

Get that Bluestar out sooner than later!

Go Tesla!

I’m a great Tesla fan, but I think they are making a big mistake here.

This is hugely expensive, for what will turn out to be very minimal use. To be profitable, the battery swap will have to be very expensive, and if not it is being subsidized by all the customers who will not use it. A vast majority of customers will choose to take a refreshing break, eat a meal, while getting their free charge. The economics won’t work.

It’s one thing to change a battery on a brand new car, quite another on one that is two years old, covered with mud and dirt, with stuck bolts. They will have to include an under-car wash (more expense and time), and spray the bolts with penetrating oil, and hope for the best.