A few weeks ago, we speculated about the possibility of Tesla introducing battery-swapping technology into its vehicles—presumably as part of an attempt to build a battery swap station network, which the late startup Better Place failed so spectacularly to do. Turns out, the rumors were true: battery swapping technology has been buried in Tesla vehicles all along, and the company plans to launch the capability as early as this year in California and the Boston to Washington DC corridor—in the same locations as the Supercharger stations.
Earlier this evening, Tesla CEO Elon Musk demonstrated in Los Angeles that his battery swapping service stations—where customers can automatically get their used-up lithium ion batteries replaced with fully-charged ones—work faster than the fastest gas pump in town. Here’s what the demo looked like.
The entire swapping process took just 90 seconds.
Battery swap services won’t be free; Musk reportedly says that the stations will charge the equivalent price of 15 gallons of gas.
Forbes explains how this will work for drivers:
f you’re making a return trip, you can pick up your pack on the way back — again fully charged — for the same "pack swap" price. That’s currently about $60-80, Musk figured. If you don’t want to make another swap, you’ll have options:
Keep the pack you received on the first swap. If it’s newer, Tesla will bill you 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.
Return home on your borrowed pack and receive your original back from Tesla for a "transport fee," which is also to be determined.
It’s hard to say whether Tesla can succeed where Better Place didn’t, but at least the startup has an ever-growing base of customers who own battery swap-equipped cars—something Better Place could never claim.