In recent weeks Tesla Motors has garnered much favorable press with several announcements serving to reduce would-be buyer resistance to its products, and this Thursday more of the same will come via a live demonstration of swappable batteries.
The Model S is the car, and Tesla’s LA Design studio at 7:30 p.m. PST is the place. The Model S was designed to accept a mechanically replaced battery with technology reminiscent of recently failed Israel-based start-up, Better Place, and now Tesla plans to disclose how it will awaken this technology that has been right under Model S owners’ noses, as CEO Elon Musk has phrased it.
In short, the prospect of exchanging the power source in less time than it takes to refill a fuel tank is expected to offer buyers additional options for electric cars Tesla has been taking substantial steps to prove are viable now.
Unknown is what kind of machinery will be used to swap the up-to 1,200-pound 85-kwh battery from underneath a Model S’ skateboard chassis. Also to be seen is how this plan will interact with buyers’ options for free access to a nationwide network of around 200 Supercharger stations – recently announced to become doubly quick.
And beyond these questions, many others would need to be answered as to how Tesla plans to beat the odds that brought down Better Place.
The Israeli company went through $850 million in capital as it attempted to roll out a network of swapping stations.
Its car, a Renault Fluence Z.E. was not perceived to be nearly as desirable as the Model S, and Better Place also did not have a growing network of quick chargers as Tesla is now in process of providing.
Critics of the battery swap model pointed out that if a car owner did not own the battery, the possibility of exchanging a newer one for one more used was a distinct possibility.
Lithium-ion batteries do after time lose their charge holding capacity, so how this potential objection will be overcome remains to be seen.
Tesla however has been bent on proving its dynamic business model is smarter than average, and in other announcements, Tesla has guaranteed the resale value of its cars to meet or exceed that of a Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Musk himself said he would dip into his own funds to back this buyback guarantee if Tesla actually failed.
The company is thus making big promises to reduce the potential concerns some might have in taking a chance in buying its new product.
Last quarter, Tesla made its first profit of around $11 million, in part based on green car credits it sold to other automakers.
Its announcement of the accelerated roll out of its “200-ish” Supercharger stations – each one estimated by Musk to cost around $150,000 without solar canopies, or $300,000 each with solar canopies means Tesla has committed to a free charging station network that should cost $30-$60 million to roll out in the next two years or so. This cost estimate could end up being higher if plans for on-site grid storage at respective Supercharger locations come along, nor does it account for cost of maintenance, upgrades, operational costs, let alone the value of the energy given away.
With all the hopeful news, Tesla’s stock price has also climbed markedly, and largely because of that, Tesla was able to pay off its $465 million Energy Department loans with interest early.
Combine this with the raw appeal of its technology and promises for more affordable cars by 2016, and Tesla has thus far ridden a wave of positive news conspired to keep its order pipeline full, and profits rolling even as it bets much money to keep the synergy flowing.
We’ll have more for you on the battery swap announcement as soon as we know more.