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Tesla’s Christmas Gift to California – A Battery Swapping Station?

Recycled Tesla battery
Recycled Tesla battery

Tesla owners in California are going to get a Christmas gift from the car company, well sort of. CEO Elon Musk announced that they are finally putting up a battery swapping station in the state by December this year, somewhere between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

The much vaunted system launched with a lot of fanfare last year seemed to have been overtaken by a lot of things in the company – the new model S, the recently launched Model D, the upcoming Model X, and who could forget, the Gigafactory in Nevada?  So, yes, the automaker was busy with a lot of things and this project seemed to be put into the back burner, or so it seems.

Part of the motivation to get things moving again was for the company to re-qualify for California’s Zero-Emission Vehicle credits (ZEV’s).   The ZEV’s allow auto companies to sell more cars in the state, which is no doubt one of the biggest car markets in the world.  Tesla was able to turn a profit last year by selling ZEV credits to other car companies.

Earlier this year, however, California revised its rapid refueling rules to qualify for ZEV’s.  Based on the new rules, a car must be able to clock in 285 miles (456 km) after 15 minutes of refueling.  Unfortunately, Tesla’s 160 mile (256 km) range after a 30 minute supercharge didn’t quite hurdle the new requirement.

A battery swap will allow Tesla drivers to swap a full battery in half the time it takes to top up a gas tank.  To do so, they would have to shell out US$60 to US$80 to use the service.  Furthermore, they will have to retrieve their old pack on the return trip or else pay an upgrade fee.  So while the technical aspects comply with the new requirement, the system must be used sufficiently to get the state’s nod.

In the meantime, everybody is in the wings to see if this service picks up, including the regulators who grant ZEV credits.  In any case, Tesla owners in the Bay area will have another stop on their way to Southern California this Christmas.  How long they, or the station lingers, however is still up in the air right now.  Hopefully the spirit of Christmas will linger long enough for the battery swapping station.

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