Fast Charging & Battery Swap Announcements 4 & 5 of the Trilogy

Fast Charging & Battery Swap Announcements 4 & 5 of the Trilogy

I have a theory that goes something like this:

Announcement 4:

Tesla announces about the Superchargers. Lots of new stations announced.

Announcement 5:

1. Tesla announces battery swap for 60's for 85kWh batteries at Service Center before/during big road trips. This is a service that will hardly get used since most people will be able to use a Supercharger, but will offer 1 minute swap with appointment. Each Service Center will only need to maintain a few large packs since the demand will be mild.

2. They couple this "faster than a fill-up" recharge with 120kWh charging so that Supercharge fill times drop significantly.

3. The cost of swap service will be complimentary for anyone with a service plan and some nominal amount if you choose to pay on a per use basis.


A. Tesla said in SEC-filing for Q2 "our capability to rapidly swap out the Model S battery pack and the development of specialized public facilities to perform such swapping, which do not currently exist but which we plan to introduce in the NEAR future." [Emphasis added]

B. 120 kwh charging has already been baked in.

C. It gives Tesla access to 7 ZEV credits instead of 4 credits per car as battery swap satisfies the fast refueling requirements.

D. Adding battery swaps at Tesla Service centers effectively triples Tesla's fast charging network. (Add all Superchargers (9) to all Service Centers (25?)

This scenario is extremely cost effective since it only requires:

1. Upgrade to vehicle software.

2. 10 battery packs per service center x 25? Service Centers x $20,000/pack = $5 Million

3. Battery swapping machine

Brian H | 11 mai 2013

Plausible, well-thought-out, but I hope it's something more exotic.


SamO | 11 mai 2013

@Brian H,

Maybe a step-up to 180kWh? Doubling current speed with full charge for an 85 kWh pack in 30 minutes.

Joel N. Weber II | 11 mai 2013

Isn't the potential charge rate 120 kw and not 120 kwh?

I'm wondering if this swap arrangement might also include a bigger battery option (didn't Elon say something along the lines of ``why not 500 miles?'' not so long ago when someone was less ambitous in asking a question?), and if they might also introduce the option to buy a bigger pack at a premium price. In general, I don't think it would be a bad thing for Tesla to offer options so that people can spend $150,000 or even $200,000 to buy a Model S if they want to, but if expected sales at such price points are low, there are limits to how much R&D effort Tesla can reasonably put into those options (unless they're essentially building a beta for something they think they can mass produce for a lot less in a few years; computer video cards have essentially worked that way). However, if there's some way to find physical space for more 16550 cells of the current type, making that an extra cost option might be practical. Or maybe they've done enough testing of a better battery chemistry that they're ready to start making it available to some extent.

I'm a little concerned about the potential hidden costs from distracted technicians interrupting what they're doing to swap batteries. We've seen a report of someone installing a trailer hitch to carry bicycles, and discovering some bolts that seemingly hadn't been tightened in the original factory manufacturing process. If something is disassembled for an annual inspection on one car, and the mechanic is interrupted to swap someone else's battery, is there a risk that they'll forget where they left off and inadvertently skip a step in the annual inspection reassembly?

I'm not necessarily expecting free battery swap. It's probably more labor intensive for Tesla than the Superchargers, and so they may prefer to steer people to the Superchargers. (Unless they've figured out how to build a battery swap robot that's fully automated.)

Additionally, if you own a 60 kwh battery pack, does Tesla loan you a 60 kwh pack and potentially eat the labor cost at each more closely spaced service center you visit to continue swapping, or do they loan you an 85 kwh pack and watch the screaming from the people who paid the extra thousands and feel cheated? I don't think there's any way around this problem without at least charging the 60 kwh owners for the battery swap service.

I'm also curious how many service centers are spaced such that you can make a contiguous trip just stopping at service centers to swap batteries. And how far are those service centers from the highways? Driving from I-95 to Watertown, Massachusetts back to I-95 may not be much faster than just waiting for a Supercharger...

I'm not sure how much the ZEV credits matter. That same report said that they expect the ZEV credits to go away soon, and for that to not matter to their profitability. (Maybe the legacy automakers have decided that building compliance cars themselves is a better plan than subsidizing their demise?)

edcalis | 11 mai 2013

To be able to successfully swap the batteries in the MS, a new, different design is required.
The car was originally designed around the battery and not otherwise.

riceuguy | 11 mai 2013

So, I'm not generally one to fuel speculation, but at the service center the other day they had several batteries in huge crates. I asked if there were already batteries being replaced (I was taking delivery of my car and was naturally concerned to see 3 or 4 batteries in crates!). They said it was to have spare parts around as needed, but maybe swapping is in our future... :-)

bb0tin | 11 mai 2013

There would be lots of issues to be dealt with, such as regulatory, aerodynamics, handling...but it may be possible to add a battery pack to, rather than swap, the existing pack for long journeys. This would double the range and effectively give an immediate 'full tank' to the original car configuration. Tesla would not need to store any customer batteries and customers always keep their own battery. With the air suspension I expect the ride height could accomodate the extract pack. Both the 500 mile range and quick fill with the one solution.

Lush1 | 11 mai 2013

How old is the battery technology in the current Model S; 3, 4 years? They had to settle on a package to develop the car around. I am not an engineer or conversant in battery science, but it seems logical to me that battery technology has improved some in the past few years and will likely progress at a fairly rapid pace in the near future. At some point, the difference will be enough to justify developing packs around state of the art chemistry. Would anybody be surprised if a new, higher capacity, lighter, smaller, faster charging battery option became available one of these days, months or years? A 500 mile, or 1000 mile pack would obviate the need for shorter spacing of Superchargers. Heck, it might eliminate the need for them altogether at some point. I admit, this is a lot of dreaming and wishful thinking, but three years ago when I put down my deposit, the very notion of the Model S seemed extremely optimistic. Yet, I drive mine every day and it many days it feels like I am dreaming.

Sorry if I'm on a bit of a tangent of off topic.

Tâm | 11 mai 2013

Tesla Servic--Costa Mesa, CA seems to be too small for such a service. There's no parking space and customers have to park along the public street.

SamO | 11 mai 2013

@Joel Webber

Elon has talked about swapping taking less than a minute. I don't think this is going to overly occupy technicians.

In fact, if they were smart, they'd add an icon to their smartphone APP and allow you to reserve and schedule an installation. Pull up to the swap machine. Push a button. 1 minute later, you are ready to drive. Return for your battery when you come back from your trip.


You do not need a new design. These battery packs were meant to be removed quickly and easily.


There are no regulatory, aerodynamics or handling issues. The batteries of the 60 and 85 have the same form factor.

bb0tin | 12 mai 2013

I was suggesting a second battery sled attached to the existing battery sled. This will change the weight, aerodynamics and handling of the car. Whether there are regulatory issues I do not know.

orthophonist | 12 mai 2013

No battery swapping - ultra capacitor used in regenerative braking to extend mileage and for quick charge at super charging stations - then slowly discharge into the lithium ion array.

Mark Z | 12 mai 2013

@Tam; Plenty of room at the Costa Mesa Service Center for batteries! | 12 mai 2013


What will all the petrol heads -- who've been clinging to range anxiety as their final sliver of hope that Tesla wouldn't take over the world market in a revolutionary storm -- have to complain about now?

Tesla --- in about one year --- will (literally) rule the world.

In this sweetest of victories over the putrid / toxic sludge of oil and the criminals who would sacrifice their children for a dime, let us be so humble and simply drive in style.

hnashif | 12 mai 2013

Why not add battery pack to the frunk or the foot well? Same question aplies to capacitors?. In order to keep front/rear ballance, this could be done both at frunk and foot well.

dirk.saenen | 12 mai 2013

@edcalis : cars to EU are shipped without battery.
so swap is feasible.

hubertz | 12 mai 2013

I would be happy with the reality of super chargers spaced in the eastern US in the next couple of months. Let's take this first step soon!

hsadler | 12 mai 2013

Let's see....
Battery replacement : 1 minute
Battery recharge : 1 hour (full charge)

So, on the worst day when everyone shows up to swap, you would have to have at least 60 spare battery packs before the first one can be re- used.

Maybe I'm not far enough out of the box. I'd like to think it will be something else announced.

lph | 12 mai 2013

Tesla service centers are located in big cities and I seem to remember (someone please correct me if wrong) that Tesla said that all the superchargers are located away from these cities.
Looks like it has been part of the plan from the beginning.

electrophorus | 12 mai 2013

Perhaps Tesla has gotten far enough with long range (say alum air) batteries to be able to offer them as rentals? Going to a service center to swap a 250 mile range battery seems a bit ho-hum, especially with a growing network of superchargers, but let's say you could go an drop in a 1000 mile battery for a long weekend? Is the technology far enough for this, and can alum-air batteries be made to fit a swappable package?

SamO | 12 mai 2013


No need for extra battery packs or Supercapacitors (yet). Incremental changes to the current batteries are yielding 8-10% improvements per year. Elon called this "baked in" for the next 3 years. Thus a 100kWh battery pack will likely fit with the same ~6800 cells into the identical spot of the current pack.


Superchargers with wide distribution are the BEST solution to range anxiety. Swap will allow even an 85kWh Model S to swap with a 100kWh battery when they become available. I'd bet that Elon will even allow you to "upgrade" to the larger pack for a price.


Why would someone swap unless they had a very particular drive that wouldn't be served by Supercharging? Especially if the cost is $20. This is going to be a niche service for the 1% of the time that either (a) you don't have time or cannot get to a Supercharger or (b) you have a small pack 60kWh that simply can't make the trip at all.

ColonyGolfer | 12 mai 2013

2 points I would like to make. Originally the design of the Model S was to be able to swap batteries quickly and efficiently (I believe 10 minutes was quoted.) Secondly, my 12 volt service battery, all of 4" X 6", weighing 5 pounds was replaced recently. It took 55 minutes with all the other parts of the car that have to be removed (including air filter, fuse box, and windshield wipers)just to get access to it. This is a poor design.

SamO | 12 mai 2013


The quoted time has not been optimized. Elon specifically state that you could recharge in "less time than a fill-up" which definitely doesn't take 10 minutes.

Also, the 12V access has nothing to do with battery swap. The 12V was not optimized for easy access since only extraordinary service (i.e. replacement) requires removal.

However the battery pack WAS designed for easy access, removal and replacement incorporated into the car design.

Whity Whiteman | 12 mai 2013

one guy mentioned "a swapable car gets 7 ZEV-credits instead of 4... does this bring the ZEV-income from 68mio to 100 mio?

SamO | 12 mai 2013


Elon keeps saying that ZEV credits should not be counted on to continue since the big 5 (Nissan, Toyota, Honda, GM, Ford & Chrysler) will likely be bringing vehicles to market that will qualify.

However, you are likely right. If additional ZEV credits are granted and there are automakers that need the credits, Tesla will likely receive a windfall.

Pungoteague_Dave | 12 mai 2013

Samo - I agree that swapping is interesting. However it is completely impractical. I have a lift and have had the car's entire underpanel structure removed to install a hitch system and parking sensors. This has allowed me to directly assess what is involved in "swapping" the battery. It is mechanically a BIG deal. No WAY it will take only five minutes. The battery is installed with and flanked by bolts around its perimeter, and it has several electrical connections, three if I recall correctly. It is huge and heavy, and the bolts are installed with Loctite or something similar.

Even if you had a NASCAR tire changing team standing by with custom tools, lift, etc, replacing the battery on an S is NOT a small operation to be done in a few minutes. Paperwork has to be done, the car had to go on a lift, the lift has to be raised (TM's srvice center lifts are old-school, slow-risers, takes a couple minutes to raise the car), and then at least 20 bolts moust be removed. The forward and rear underbody panels attach TO the battery itself, and are on TOP of the battery (under it when below the car) so those screws must be removed and reinstalled. Then the heavy battery has to be removed from under the car, the new one rolled under, the bolts must be reinstalled and individually torqued to specification (remember that the battery is a STRUCTURAL element of the car chassis) everything must be inspected and signed off.

Based on personal experience under the car and thinking hard about how long it takes to do each step, I think a good three-man crew that is waiting and ready to go when you get there would require an hour to replace the S battery, and longer for the typical mechaninc. There is NO PHYSICAL WAY to swap a Models S battery as fast as changing oil in an ICE, for example, and if you remember oil changes, they are a scheduled event, not something to be done in the daily course of travel.

My guess is that the planned announcement isn't about swaps, it is about battery capacity or charging speed.

mrspaghetti | 12 mai 2013

Elon specifically said "recharge" in his tweet. My money is on some kind of actual recharging technology rather than swapping, though they may offer swapping as well. I doubt it will catch on though - seems like more trouble than it's worth vs just supercharging.

SamO | 12 mai 2013


Swapped batteries technically will have to be recharged. I think this is a bit of misdirection.

Whity Whiteman | 12 mai 2013

how big will the news be on a scale from 1 to 10?
1 is just SC with 120 KW... 10 is 180KW+Swapable batts+500Milerange-pack.

I'm curious like a tearing sheet

jjaeger | 12 mai 2013

I hope it's a 1 w/ the additional detail on the # of in-process stations to be opened in the next 90 days (20+). That would be a 10 for me.

Pungoteague_Dave | 12 mai 2013

Repeat: THE BATTERY IS EXTENSIVELY BOLTED IN and you have to remove (or at least dislodge) fore and aft under-bodywork to get it out. Swapping is NOT going to happen with the current Model S version - maybe in another version. There is CAULK between the body and the subframe. NOT going to happen. Impossible, except as a repair item, with hours on the rack.

SamO | 12 mai 2013


If what you write is true, then Elon has been lying extensively and recently.

In fact, Elon has already stated that the Model S is swap-ready.

negarholger | 12 mai 2013

SamoSam - that article is from 2011... things change pver time.

jeroens | 12 mai 2013

Elon already said in a reply tweet the announcement was Supercharger related so not expecting a battery swap.

I'm expecting not hoping for 120-200 kWh charge speed.

SamO | 12 mai 2013


Musk also tweeted about the "mystery announcement". Not sure why this would preclude battery swap being mystery announcement.

SamO | 12 mai 2013


That didn't and Musk talked about Battery Swap as recently as 3 months ago.

Sudre_ | 12 mai 2013

I do see the possibility for the current battery to be removed and an adapter casing installed that would allow for a fast swap system with a smaller pack. I do not see this as being realistic in the near future since a smaller size would mean less miles.

elguapo | 12 mai 2013

If they just tell us there are more superchargers and where they'll be, that would be great. I think anything else is reading too much into Elon's love of hyperbole. Swapping isn't of interest to me and I think it is highly unlikely. Actually, instead of superchargers, if rather they focus on guide lines on backup camera and parking sensors.

Brian H | 12 mai 2013

Supercaps with any meaningful amount of energy would fill the car.

PorfirioR | 12 mai 2013

Hopefully this is not another creative accounting announcement. You know, if you count that you "fill up" your car at home before a long trip, then supercharge on the way, then charge overnight again at your destination, it means that you only actively spent 30 minutes "filling up" your vehicle 3 times.

I do believe that some of the battery management might have been designed too conservative (almost Brody-proof) and the announcement might have something to do with an update/tweak enabling faster charging and better battery management, giving owners more range and slightly faster charging.

TFMethane | 12 mai 2013

@Brian H

Refer to the table about 1/2 way down the page.

Graphene supercapacitor energy density: 85 Wh/kg. In order to store a full 85KWh Tesla battery's worth of charge, it would wiegh 1000kg, or one metric ton. You could maybe get away with half of that, but then you would only be storing the charge for half a Tesla battery.

You could have some configuration of 40kWh supercap, weighing approx 500lb, and an 85 kWh Tesla battery. The Tesla battery is thermally limited to charge, aparrently, at 120kW. If the superchargers were upgraded to 240kW output (or greater), you could charge your Tesla battery at 120kW to, say, 1/2 charge simultaneously charging up your supercap with the extra supercharger power output... Then, after driving away, the supercap could transfer the charge over to the more stable storage of the Tesla battery.

Altogether, as compared to just filling up completely with 120kW supercharger, it would drop your zero-to-full charge time from about 40 min at 120kW to, figure, 20 min. In many scenarios, your battery would have some charge left in it, so it might take you only, say, 10 min to get to 1/2 charge on the battery and charge the rest onto the supercap. I have to admit, this brings the charging times down to par with a gasoline engine in most scenarios (except, still, long road trips when you drain the battery closer to empty).

When you consider the significantly reduced range that would result from carrying the weight of a graphene supercapacitor - even a theoretically ideal one - I don't think it makes sense.

I think Elon Musk and the men and women at Tesla did a fantastic job engineering this machine. My guess is that any of the recommended upgrades by the folks here would likely break down upon detailed engineering analysis... which is why they didn't include them in the car to begin with.

TFMethane | 12 mai 2013


I saw a shipment of those same crates at the Costa Mesa service center about a month ago when I went in to have my main rear view mirror fixed (It snapped off while I was adjusting it).

Anyway, they were using the exact same one-man forklift to load about three crates just like those onto a small trailer towed by a F350 or some such truck. They were obviously shipping them OUT of the costa Mesa Service center... to where, I don't know, and certainly not in large quantities, since they could only load three of them on the back of this trailer. It definitely didn't look like a large-scale commercial operation. It took five guys almost an hour of sitting on one end of the crate to keep it balanced on the teeth of the forklift - since they weren't long enough to get under the center of gravity of the crate. There were a lot of yells and stops and starts as these super-heavy crates kept trying to move in ways the movers didn't want them to.

If these are Tesla batteries, as they seem to be... The Costa Mesa service center doesn't seem to have the custom equipment to even be moving them around on their lot with any efficiency - they're using a cheap, non-purpose-built handtruck/fork lift. I doubt they have the facilities to be swapping them in and out of cars in a minute or two.

Brian H | 12 mai 2013

Look up the definitions of gravimetric and volumetric. Wh/kg doesn't take account of the much larger space supercaps take up. That is, they're lighter. Think of them as big electron balloons. They would fill the car.

Pungoteague_Dave | 13 mai 2013

Have you actually been to a service center (generic tools and lifts) or looked at the bottom of a Model S and inspected how the battery is installed? I have done that. The idea that it can be fast-swapped is just CRAZY.

I posted pictures of the surgery that I did on the bottom of my Models S to install a hitch (for a bike rack) - have recently done this again in the rear and to the front to install parking assist sensors.

This is not speculation - it is a BIG deal with much work to remove the Model S battery. This isn't an extensive set of pictures of the battery, but in two of the pictures in my slides for the hitch install, you can see the rear of the battery, including empty screw holes IN THE BATTERY perimter where the rear body work ATTACHES TO THE BATTERY. This is IN ADDITION to the perimeter bolts and caulk holding the battery in place as a structural member of the underbody.

Elon isn't lying and I have not seen anywhere that he says the battery in the CURRENT car can be hot-swapped (you referenced years-old speculation in the development/prototype phase - this may have been explored but it was dropped).

You can see the rear end of the battery in two of my photos here:

You can see better pictures of the battery and the bolts to which I refer (although you can't see the caulk or glue, not sure which it is, but it is slightly oozing out between the battery and the mounting points on my car) in the Edmunds chassis walk-around located here:

Look down the page for the full battery pictures - you can clearly see that there are at LEAST 27 separate bolts and screws that must be removed to get the battery off, ASSUMING that it can be done without also removing the front and rear underbody access panels, which I doubt, given that's how you access the battery wiring connectors. If I recall correctly, that's another couple dozen attachment points that I had to remove to get to the place where I could install the hitch. After replacing a (thousand-pound?) battery, you'd then have to re-tourque all of the mounting bolts to spec and have someone test the torque specs again (at least three touches PER BOLT during installation alone).

No TM service center is ever going to have the capability or staffing to do this job as an in-service power source swap in under a couple hours (did you say in under a minute SamaSam?). LOOK at the pictures. Those are real bolts with real torque specifications.

Routine battery swapping (except to repair/replace) is speculation - and in my experience and opinion, it isn't going to happen.

andycrews | 13 mai 2013

@Pungoteague_Dave : what about a HW upgrade to replace all those bolts with some other quick-release system? Is it possible?
Or maybe this is being developed for the 2014 Model S...

risquared | 13 mai 2013

SamoSam sir, just for the record you can't have part 4 and 5 of a trilogy. As the name assumes trilogy is made of three parts.

Pungoteague_Dave | 13 mai 2013


Maybe they could replace the bolts with quick release attachment points. I am not an engineer, just a retired banker, backyard garage mechanic, and part time academic. For that reason and many others, rereading my posts above, I come across as too authoritative and definitive. I could definitely be wrong despite the ill-advised caps. However, as I understand it, the battery is a key part of the Model S body structure, including much of the torsional rigidity. This has been reported and discussed extensively. It is also obvious from inspecting the battery, that while removable, it is attached firmly in multiple location, and for a reason.

I have not seen a quick release method that would provide enough torque to do what the existing battery fixment bolts accomplish, but suppose it is possible. Still, given the number of bolts, I would not want to rely on a fast-change operation in any case. Because the battery is also the car's structure backbone, missing or improperly torquing one or two bolts could be a disaster. I once had a BMW shop screw up a simple oil filter installation, with two gaskets where there should have been one, costing them plenty to fix. The Model S battery is too big, with several types of fasteners fastening it to the car, and attaching plastic panels to it, for any machine to be able to completely automate a swap (only in my limited judgment).

wheatcraft | 13 mai 2013

At the factory tour, we were told that the battery is the very last thing attached to the car, and that the main reason for that is to allow rapid swapping in the future .... Just sayin'.

Pungoteague_Dave | 13 mai 2013

wheatcraft, I am sure that's correct, as the battery is a service item. However, it is completely factual that there are more than a couple dozen bolts AND that some (at least two and I think four) of the underbody panels are screwed TO the battery AFTER the battery is installed. This isn't speculation, as I have personbaly removed the rear screws holding the rear valance panel to the battery twice, and the front crews once.

jk2014 | 13 mai 2013

resounding +1 Pungoteague_Dave

Announcement will be faster charging. Faster then expected deployment of supercharger network too. Might announce 30-40 more (Europe included) by fall.