Tesla’s last big announcement following months of good news and press conferences was the announcement that it could perform a 90-second battery swap and would be rolling out battery swapping stations on the East and West Coast this year. This announcement took the form of a battery swapping demo last night (Thursday, June 20) at 8:00pm at Tesla’s Design Studio in Hawthorne, California. Video on Tesla’s site and here:
Indeed, even despite Better Place’s recent bankruptcy and Carlos Ghosn’s announcement that Nissan and Renault didn’t have any more plans to be involved with battery swapping, Tesla is jumping into the battery swapping arena. Later in the year, Tesla will roll out some battery swapping stations along the major Los Angeles-to-San Francisco corridor and then along to the Washington-to-Boston corridor.
Musk seemed quite optimistic about this segment of Tesla’s world-leading technology offerings. “Hopefully this is what convinces people finally that electric cars are the future,” Tesla CEO and Chairman Elon Musk said at the event.
Electric cars have been growing strong — by many standards, much faster than conventional hybrids did at the same stage of their development. Numerous major car companies now offer electric vehicles. But none offer what Tesla offers — the Model S, solar-powered supercharging stations, and now battery swapping stations. Tesla is clearly the world’s EV leader, and many would argue automotive leader, at this point in time.
I was on a press call with Elon a few weeks ago in which the topic of battery swapping was brought up by a reporter. This was just following news that Better Place, the world’s initial battery swapping leader, was going bankrupt. Elon noted that he had been talking about battery swapping for years, that it wasn’t a revolutionary idea (we do it with other technologies), and that the keys were getting the battery swapping technology and economics right. We’ll see if Tesla has done so.
Initially, it will cost Model S drivers $60 to $80 to swap a battery pack. However, they have to swap again on their return drive and get their original battery pack back. Otherwise, they have to pay the difference between the value of their old battery pack and the new one. And, of course, if a driver would rather take a break and spend 20–30 minutes recharging with one of Tesla’s Superchargers for free, they can still do that — the battery swapping and supercharger stations will be located next to each other.
A key line from the demo last night was of course, “The only decision you need to make when you come to one of our Tesla stations is, Do you prefer faster, or free?”
As the demonstration last night showed, Tesla’s battery swapping service is as quick and cheap as filling up a 15-gallon gas tank. In other words, no compromises in switching from a gasmobile to an electric car. 90 seconds for a battery swap — not bad.