Not to beat a dead horse, but is battery swap now a sure thing?

Not to beat a dead horse, but is battery swap now a sure thing?

This is the picture from the invite to the June 20th event...note the URL!

Does this imply that battery swap is coming whether you/I/they like it or not?

shaneosullivan1 | 12 juin 2013

Either this is:

(a) A sloppy accidental leak
(b) Epic trolling by Musk & Co

It's hard to say. Elon has come out pretty hard against battery swapping, so it would be surprising if that's what they announce.

DouglasR | 12 juin 2013

@shane - Did he come out hard against battery swapping, or just against a nationwide network of swapping stations? Do you have a link?

Kleist | 12 juin 2013

very dead horse... be patient

Brian H | 13 juin 2013

His quote some time ago was that no one had some up with a workable business model. Maybe that's changed.

bent | 13 juin 2013

This is how I think battery swap might be a viable business model for Tesla. There are challenges with making this work, including the mechanical swapping solution (which Tesla have hinted they may already have solved), convincing customers they don't really own one specific battery but instead have a sort of virtual ownership to some battery, and of course making the numbers work out financially. Nevertheless if they can crack those problems then they can stand to benefit greatly from it.

Assume that there is a Tesla battery swap programme that you can choose to be a part of when you buy your Tesla (or maybe it's mandatory, that would have its advantages but may be difficult to sell). This may or may not cost extra. Maybe this is what takes over for the prepayment plans they've had for Roadster batteries in which case it will likely be an option when buying the car.

When you are in this programme you can choose to go to a battery swap station (maybe at service centers, or maybe spread about similar to the superchargers) to replace your battery. You will receive a fully charged one and can leave behind one that was drained. Tesla guarantees that you will receive a battery that has at least 90% top capacity left so you'll never get a complete turkey.

With this move you will potentially be given an option of a very fast top-up on the move (if swaps are done by robot on supercharger-like locations), and, more interestingly, you never have to worry about your battery wearing out because you can always swap it for one that is guaranteed to be at least 90% good. (Which, incidentally, means that 10-15 years from now there won't be a whole fleet of joke Teslas limping around on the roads, running on lithium fumes and little else.)

An interesting side effect of this is that Tesla would probably feed only 85kWh batteries into the system, and electronically limit them to 60kWh when installed in S60 cars like they did with the S40 battery packs. This means that S60 car owners should get the power of the S85 pack (if not the range), and the batteries will see less wear on the S60 part of the fleet due to lower max charge while in such a car.

The future prospects of this system are even more interesting. Three years down the line Tesla may phase out the 85kWh packs and start cycling new 100kWh packs into the programme. These will be limited to 85% max charge for the S85 and 60% max charge for the S60, pretty near eliminating wear even if the owners always charge up in full range mode. In fact, at this point they might as well remove the whole range mode complication from the cars and always "top up" the battery because the life cycle impact is so minor. And of course, bigger battery means more power if the rest of the drive train can handle it. Either way, your car just got better.

Another three years down the line, Tesla cycles in 120kWh packs into the programme and now they even have the luxury of giving free upgrades to existing vehicles: S60 raises its cap to 85kWh and S85 to 100kWh. Because why not, the batteries are still only topping out at about 80% charge so they can easily take it. Your car just got significantly better!

Such a system, if it is technically and financially feasible, gives tremendous use benefits to Tesla's customers, and it would quite dramatically drive home the adage "the car that gets better the longer you own it" which could truly revolutionize the car industry (again).

Furthermore, such a programme as this, if it is financed through car sales, gives Tesla an excellent product cycle for battery packs. Fresh, expensive, packs enter into the swap programme paid for by car buyers. They depreciate in value as they churn around within that programme, but, while doing so deliver customer satisfaction and marketing clout that money alone just cannot buy. Once the batteries are worn below your 90% guarantee (which, if your swap stations are clever enough they can keep around some S60-only batteries, is about 64% for the 85kWh, markedly less for future 100kWh+ batteries) they can be sold on to SolarCity or similar businesses for use as static energy banks. This will yield a steady supply of such batteries to the power industry, which should enable Tesla to negotiate favourable prices on them.

I've never been a big believer in battery swapping myself, it seems such a silly idea, but, if the obvious problems can be worked out then there may yet be gold in them there hills.

Andre-nl | 13 juin 2013

The questions I have center around the question of ownership/warranty.

What if you have driven more than 120,000 miles and the pack you swap in is only a few months old and it breaks down. Can you claim guarantee?

Can you flatbed your Model S to a swapping station, push it in and swap the faulty pack for a new one?

I can see some legal issues here. I think Tesla will have to offer the battery for rent for the battery swap model to work out. Some thoughts:

Current owners will have to hand over the ownership of the battery to Tesla and then rent it back from them. Of course, they already prepaid battery rent for the lifetime of the car upon purchase so they don't have to pay them anything. If larger packs become available in the future, current 60 and 85 kWh owners can opt to use those at a reasonable differential rental fee. New Model S cars will be offered with battery rent (prepaid at purchase or per month) or battery ownership (no swap allowed). At the recent change in warranty conditions, Tesla already assumed virtually all responsibility for the pack, so in practise not much will change.

MarkV | 13 juin 2013

If one looks back in TESLA history, one will find that the original business plan was to build the Roadster, roll the profits into Model S, roll the profits into Model C AND to include battery swap capability. The design criteria for Model S included capability to remove the battery pack in one or two minutes (I do not remember which). I have watched the battery swapping operation used by BETTER PLACE and if they can swap batteries in 5 minutes (actually about 10 minutes in and out of the swap line)so can TESLA, only better. What has hindered BETTER PLACE is the infrastructure required to service a limited number of cars. I suspect TESLA has already sold more "S" cars than the Reneault Fluence ZE which is the only car serviced by BETTER PLACE. That said, TESLA will still have a large infrastructure system with which to deal if indeed they opt to do so. All we can do is wait for the announcement.

J.T. | 13 juin 2013

All we can do is wait for the announcement.
You're forgetting we can also wildly speculate. :-)

Brian H | 13 juin 2013

Where are you getting this "Model C" terminology? Internally at TM and on the forums, the interim name for the mass-market model being designed is GenIII. Do you mean the same thing?

kback | 13 juin 2013

It still seems to me that swapping the main battery will take longer than filling a gas tank. From what people have described, the way the battery pack is bolted in place and attached to the battery cooling / heating system would make a 1 or 2 minute swap impossible. The most likely scenario for battery swapping would be a metal air battery in the frunk, which could be put in place in seconds and could be used to "recharge the battery faster than it takes to fill a gas tank."
As pointed out above, though, this is still all wild speculation. We'll know soon enough...

Bryan M. | 13 juin 2013

Swap to me makes sense if they introduce a 400-500 mile battery pack that you can rent(to expensive to buy/upgrade at the moment) for a long road trip so then you'd always return to swap back to original battery once you return. Coupled with the faster charging range anxiety worries would be laid to rest. You wouldn't need to produce a lot of these unless demand supported it, but with this option potential buyers will be at ease and current owners would benefit.

mrspaghetti | 13 juin 2013

This horse is now a candidate for mummification.

Tesla Family | 13 juin 2013

Another possibility is a business model along the lines of Solar City. Tesla leases you the car (for around, say, $40k) and they own the battery. The car becomes more affordable, and you can swap batteries at any service center. Perhaps you'd also pay a monthly fee for the privilege of Supercharging and or/swapping. This dead horse just might make Model S accessible to the masses.

Captain_Zap | 13 juin 2013


Acronym? Guesses?

Bryan M. | 13 juin 2013

Hero -Hitched Extended Range Option

elguapo | 13 juin 2013

+1 @mrspaghetti

jk2014 | 13 juin 2013

Fox news just reported an Archeological dig has commenced to uncover the oldest mummified horse on earth.

jk2014 | 13 juin 2013

Then beat it...

EcLectric | 13 juin 2013

(H)ydrogen (E)lectric (R)everse (O)smosis

They have found a membrane that will separate the hydrogen from any hydrocarbon (glucose, garbage, lawn clippings, dead rats...), and the hydrogen will be used in a fuel cell with air to produce electricity.

Who needs a 'Mr fusion' ?

George with SacEV | 13 juin 2013

More simple?

High Energy Range Option