How will battery swap be implemented?

How will battery swap be implemented?

During the annual shareholders meeting today Elon was asked about his tweet re: "Model S will refuel quicker than a gas powered car". He answered that there will be a demonstration on June 20th and that it is NOT a faster supercharger. Given the language that was added to the Q1 10k referencing battery swapping for the first time, it seems pretty likely that Tesla is rolling out battery swapping. So my question is: how will it be implemented? Here are a few options:

1) Battery swapping at Tesla service centers. If you are in the area and need a full battery quickly there could be a fee for this. It will likely be a robotic process where you would drive in, wait a few minutes and drive away with a new battery. I'm sure the customer will be charged whatever the cost of this service is with Tesla not trying to make a profit on the service.

2) Battery swapping stations at Tesla Supercharger stations. This seems less-likely as Elon bragged that they pay little to no rent at these stations because they are just taking over parking spaces. A battery swap station will require more space and rent. The advantage is it speeds up the trip.

3) Franchised Tesla battery stations. Similar concept to the current gas station business model. Small business owners can take the risk and manage their inventory. In this scenario the service would be more expensive due to the profits the franchisee needs to make.

mdemetri | June 4, 2013

For a swapable secondary air metal battery, I think option 1 will be the initial role out, followed by option 3 over time. IMO, it is unlikely to be swapping the main pack.

RanjitC | June 4, 2013

Forget the main battery swap ain't gonna happen, and shouldn't. The real answer is supercapacitors.

jackhub | June 4, 2013

@ mdemetri, Not the main pack? What else is there? It is one integrated slab under the car.

RanjitC | June 4, 2013

And I don't want any body taking it out of my car. i paid for it!

Brian H | June 4, 2013

a supplementary swappable metal-air option has been discussed here. Use to locate the discussions.

Shesmyne2 | June 4, 2013

From what I remember from the meeting, Elon basically said, "it is really exciting technology, but a fast charge from a super capacitor doesn't give you enough energy density, and won't, "for a while"".

I'm not an electrical engineer and don't even attempt to play one one TV.

RanjitC | June 4, 2013

I just saw a girl on ABC showing how you can charge a cellphone in 30 seconds using a super capacitor as a power source. I have a RC helicopter that can do the same thing. how long do you think it will take that this tech will be available in cars!

Brian H | June 4, 2013

How long can the cellphone do 70mph on one charge? That's the real time to be measuring.

Captain_Zap | June 4, 2013

Don't forget the clue about it being "right under your nose".

RanjitC | June 4, 2013

How about 8500 cellphone or laptop batteries.

RanjitC | June 4, 2013

Right under your nose!

HenryT2 | June 4, 2013

I don't know about you, but I rarely keep my cellphone "right under my nose". Occasionally on the side of my face, but mostly it's in my pocket right next to my #@$%.

But seriously, Elon's not going to make an announcement that they will be rolling this out in the next few years once they research and produce supercapacitors big enough to power the car. The supercapacitor might be in Tesla's future, but the distant future. The immediate future sounds like the air metal battery that's been discussed on the forum.

I'm just curious as to how big it's going to be and how much they'll charge. As the owner of a 40, that could make the difference for me of actually being able to leave my neighborhood.

JZ13 | June 18, 2013

The debate is over, the demonstration on Thursday is swap.

As confirmed by Forbes' repost of Elon's tweet:

So until the demo, let's debate out how it's gonna work.

rtb | June 18, 2013

Posted this on another thread:
Just a thought--I am not sure if the normal car buyer will be Tesla's intended market for battery swaps. Think about taxis, private cars, and car sharing services where the car is almost in continual use around a central hub/dispatch office. The taxi company can build and support the infrastructure for battery swap. Plus, fuel costs are largest (guessing here) variable cost for these operations. A supercharger doesn't make sense for taxi company given that every minute the car is off the road, it isn't making money. On the flip side, Tesla will have opened a huge new segment for car sales and free advertising.

negarholger | June 18, 2013

rtb - plus...
- e.g. San Francisco, Manhattan,..
- wider market in Europe and Asia ( lack of garages )
- battery rental = lower starting price.

Carefree | June 18, 2013

For Europe this might make way more sense than for the US. On every single "Interstate" or Autobahn they have gas stations - you don't have to leave the highway like you do here in the US to get gas. They could easily install battery swap stations at these service stations.

Buy the car but rent the battery pack. Brings down initial price and ensures adoption of EVs in Europe at a much faster pace.

roseland67 | June 18, 2013

Maybe, just maybe,
if and only if,
the existing Tesla battery pack is replaced/swapped,
by another Tesla battery pack, with the same/similar amount
of run-time and backed by the same Tesla warranty.

Otherwise it is going to be difficult at best,
to insure the integrity of the $80,000 vehicle.

Jury is out here, I think proper trip planning
and the continual expansion of the super charging network
is the best strategy going forward,
(that is, as science and technology exist today).

JZ13 | June 18, 2013

@rtb - great idea! That is the first model that actually makes economic sense.

Brian H | June 18, 2013

Swap what? A booster battery still qualifies.

DouglasR | June 18, 2013


As they say, sometimes in error, but never in doubt.

DTsea | June 18, 2013

RanjitC- overcharging a cell phone battery once which has a tiny total charge is one thing. Zapping 60 or 70 kWh in 5 minutes is another. That's 720 kW at perfect efficiency... the power feeders in the car can't handle it.

As to the battery in the frunk thing... that would require redoing the safety qualifications at a minimum. I think that's not going to happen.

JZ13 | June 18, 2013

So option #2 from my original 3 options is the winner. Tesla will be installing battery swap at the Supercharger stations for a nominal fee. Interesting. So the concept is: Charge for 20 - 40 minutes OR pay a fee and get a quick swap.

So the remaining question I have is: what happens to YOUR battery? Do you get it back on a return trip? Or do you just keep the battery you swapped for? And if you keep it, then I assume it should have at least as much range/life as the one you gave up.

The plan is to test the swap stations at SOME locations and gauge their viability. If it's successful then they will roll out more swap stations at Supercharger stations.

DouglasR | June 19, 2013

JZ13 - He didn't say it would be a nominal fee. He said it would be compelling.

JZ13 | June 19, 2013

DouglasR - you are correct sir.

Brian H | June 19, 2013

Compel you to skip it? ;)

uselesslogin | June 19, 2013


You may hate the idea of main pack swapping at superchargers but Elon has just made a used Model S considerably more attractive than a new Gen III. If the battery can be swapped the thing can be driven for 15+ years with no long term maintenance concern. The battery was the only expensive part that would have to be replaced. Everything else can be replaced if/when it breaks for not too much money. You think a new electric car has lower maintenance? A 15-year-old Model S will have dramatically lower maintenance than a 15-year-old ICE.

kback | June 19, 2013


David Trushin | June 20, 2013

So, i charge at home every night and don't have a problem with taking a 45 min to 1 hr break every couple of hundred miles. So i don't think I would be interested in a battery swap option. However there is a whole segment in the ev market that is locked out because they can't charge at night: People who own or rent apartments in urban or suburban areas without private garage. So I would build out the sc network and build up service areas in urban places. This would drive the sale of many, many more cars. You could start with service centers and stores.