VIDEO: Tesla Unveils a Demonstration of the Battery Swapping Technology in the Model S (TSLA)

By Benzinga | June 21, 2013 AAA

Elon Musk pulled another trick out of his hat last night by displaying the Model S’s swappable battery technology. And, it’s pretty cool to say the least.

Talks about the battery swapping capabilities have been swirling around for months and Musk has been teasing us with Tesla’s (NYSE: @elonmusk.

Finally, Musk showed off the Model S’s battery swapping abilities last night in California. Here’s a video from Tesla’s website of the process:

How it Works:

The battery swapping process will only take a total of 90 seconds to complete, shorter than it takes to fill up a tank of gas. You enter the battery switching station within the grooves of the track (like a carwash), stay in your car the whole time (yes, you don’t have to feel that nippy winter cold anymore), let the machine mechanism below the vehicle swap out your old battery with a new one and be on your way in no time.

Will it cost money? You betcha. Bloomberg reported that the cost of borrowing a battery pack for your Model S will be equivalent to the cost of a tank of gasoline, according to Musk.

So that’s around $60 to $80 for a battery pack swap, which will be automatically billed to users’ credit cards. From there, “loaner packs can be returned to the charging station and replaced with the customer’s own pack, fully charged,” Musk said, according to Bloomberg.

What This Means For Model S Customers:

How This Is Good News:

  • Faster than gas, only 90 seconds.
  • More convenient than gas (don’t have to leave your car)
  • Makes the idea of owning a Tesla vehicle more attractive because you cut your refueling time from a typical supercharging refill time of 30 minutes to 90 seconds with a battery swap.
  • After returning the loaner pack at the charging station, your real battery pack will be waiting for you fully charged. Beautiful.

Disadvantages:

  • None. You don’t have to participate in battery swapping. Tesla owners can still fully charge their Model S’s overnight at their homes or re-charge them at any of Tesla’s supercharging during the day in around 30 minutes.
  • BUT, if you have a meeting in 10 minutes and you need a quick battery pack swap, then you will run into some inconveniences:
  • For one, your credit card will be charged for the $60-$80 battery swap fee.
  • You’ll also have to return the loaner battery pack at some point to the charging station.

Implementing the Battery Swap Network:

The battery swap stations will be conveniently installed where current supercharging stations are located.

“The first swap-capable locations will be at supercharger stations located along California’s I-5, though the company plans to bring them online at east coast superchargers in short order,” TechCrunch reported.

However, updating the already costly supercharger network won’t look so good on their income statement. “Tesla expects each battery swap station to cost about $500,000 to build,” according to TechCrunch. In addition, costs will pile up long term for Tesla as they will have to maintain their loaner battery fleet and replace old, overused batteries from the swapping stations.

Despite the costs, Tesla obviously believes that the benefits will outweigh the costs. The Model S’s capability to refill their tank, so to speak, faster than gasoline users will attract those who were previously on the fence about owning a Tesla because of re-charging time concerns.

Takeaways:

There is still one main concern that Tesla will have a difficult time addressing gasoline’s one main advantage over electric vehicles: the travel distance convenience of gas stations. The fact that there is a gasoline station just a few miles from wherever you are (assuming you’re not in the middle of Idaho) is gasoline’s main advantage over purely electric cars. It is difficult to imagine that Tesla would be able to construct enough battery swapping stations to even closely resemble the enormous network of gas stations in the US.

Until that happens, there will be those who continue to be hesitant towards purchasing a Tesla because they don’t want to deal with the inconvenience of planning their days around charging/ battery swapping locations. With gas, users never have to worry about that.

Nevertheless, the battery swapping system definitely boosts Tesla’s and the Model S’s appeal and is a very impressive display of engineering genius.

Tesla is on a 179.84 percent growth run over the last three months.

Tesla closed Thursday at $100.65 and is trading down $0.10 at time of publication.

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