Tesla Soon To Offer Battery Swapping

In a move to ease the mind of those who still have range anxiety, Tesla announced yesterday evening a new service: battery swapping.

Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO, demonstrated that the Model S battery pack can be exchanged for a fully charged one in less than half the time it takes to refill a gas tank, or around 90 seconds.

In order to do so, the car drives over a special pit, reminiscent of an oil change pit, in which a dedicated machine removes the battery pack and replaces it with a fully charged one.

Musk said the cost of a battery swap for the user will be more or less the equivalent of 15 gallons of gas at the going local rate, but “it will be more convenient.” Musk figures this will amount to between $60 and $80.

Tesla will be tracking battery packs, so owners can always go back and get their original pack back, fully charged, for the same battery pack swap fee.

All those operations will be billed on a credit card kept on file.

Considering the fact Superchargers are free to use and will stay free, Musk commented: “do you prefer faster or free?” Customers will have the choice.

Tesla said that if an owner doesn’t want to swap again, it has the option of keeping the pack received on the first swap. If it’s newer, Tesla will bill the customer for the difference, though the amount is to be determined. The warranty is the balance of the standard 8-year term, dependent on the age of the pack you received.

Another other option is to have the original battery pack shipped home for what Tesla call a “transport fee”, which also has to be determined.

Musk estimates the cost of this whole operation to be around $500,000 per battery swapping location. They will of course be located with the Supercharger stations. Each battery swapping location is expected to have 50 batteries on hand, and the operations will be run so that Model S owners do not need to make reservations.

Many are wondering why a car company is getting involved in what many consider non-car activities. To this Musk replied: “I think it’s important for us to address the reasons people are not buying electric cars. People need to feel they have the same level of freedom they have with gasoline cars. If they need to get somewhere in a hurry, they can do that. In fact, they can get there faster.”

Faster here refers to the fact the approximately 90 seconds needed for a battery swap is put forward by Tesla as being a lot quicker than the time needed to refuel a car (roughly five minutes).

Initially, and before the end of 2013, battery swapping operations will be setup in the Los Angeles – San Francisco corridor, where Tesla sees many Model S doing the trip from one area to another.

Following this, Tesla will extend the battery swapping operations to the Boston – Washington D.C. corridor.