It’s been a few months in coming, but Tesla Motors is finally making good on its promise to offer battery swapping, for realz this time, for the Tesla Model S.
We all know at least three things about the Tesla Model S: 1) It’s quite the performer, that is, it has a high fun-to-drive quotient, 2) It has a limited range, up to 300 miles with the 85 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, and 3) You can charge a Tesla Model S, in about an hour, at strategically-placed Tesla Supercharger stations. For many Tesla owners, they’re finding that the one-hour-or-less Supercharger stop is more or less fine. Still, that’s quite a chunk of time for some folks, which is why the promise of battery swapping seemed so bright.
Perhaps the now-defunct Better Place is better-known for electric vehicle battery swapping, ostensibly more convenient than battery charging, but even fast-charging-proponent Tesla Motors has toyed with the idea. The idea is that the battery swapping facility will have a number of ready-charged battery packs “in stock.” Drive in your electric vehicle and, instead of waiting up to an hour to recharge your existing battery, your drained battery pack is replaced with a freshly-charged one. For the Tesla Model S, the whole procedure takes less than five minutes and, with refinements, could be reduced to as little as a minute. Here’s Elon Musk showing off battery swapping in the Tesla Model S last year…
Tesla Motors says that the single Tesla Model S battery-swapping station, located across from an existing Tesla Supercharger in Harris Ranch, California, is being built for a couple reasons: 1) Test and refine automated battery-swapping systems and 2) Test the demand for battery swapping in the Tesla Model S and future models. This second point seems like it could be sticky, seeing as other companies didn’t fare so well, such as Better Place. On the other hand, the success of the Tesla pilot program could be related to the fact that the Tesla Model S is already a wildly-popular electric vehicle. At first, swapping the battery in a Tesla Model S will cost a little less than a full tank of gas in a premium sedan and will be available by appointment only.