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Tesla to begin piloting battery pack swap program for invited Model S owners

Starting next week, Tesla Motors will pilot a battery pack swap program with invited Model S owners. The selected owners will have the opportunity to swap their car’s battery at a custom-built facility located across the street from the Tesla Superchargers at Harris Ranch, CA. Tesla intends the pilot program to test the technology and to assess demand.

The Harris Ranch Superchargers sit off the I-5, the interstate highway connecting Los Angeles (and San Diego) with the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento in the north. Harris Ranch is roughly equidistant from Sacramento (~187 miles); San Francisco (~183 miles); and LA (~199 miles).

(Harris Ranch is the largest beef producer and the largest ranch on the West Coast, producing in excess of 150 million pounds (68 million kg) of beef per year. The Harris feedlot, where cattle are taken for finishing with grain feeding after being in pastures, is alongside the 5 at its intersection with California State Route 198 east of Coalinga, and encompasses nearly 800 acres. The feedlot has the capacity to produce 250,000 head of fed cattle per year. The smell, especially during the summer months, is … distinctive. A rapid battery swap would be an olfactory boon.)

Initially, battery swap will be available by appointment and, according to Tesla, “will cost slightly less than a full tank of gasoline for a premium sedan”. (Given the recent drop in the price of premium, that comparison may be a bit off.) Because more time is now needed to remove the titanium and hardened aluminum ballistic plates that shield the battery pack (earlier post), the swap process takes approximately three minutes.

With further automation and refinements on the vehicle side, Tesla thinks that the swap time could be reduced to less than one minute, even with shields.

Tesla will evaluate relative demand from customers for paid pack swap versus free charging to assess whether it merits the engineering resources and investment necessary for that upgrade.

In June 2013, Tesla demonstrated a battery swap option for the Model S. The swap, which, similar to the Better Place approach, has the target vehicle drive over a pit for removal of the old and insertion of a new pack, then took about 90 seconds. (Earlier post.)

In addition to giving customers a rapid refueling option, battery swapping—if shown as based on real-world use—could ultimately result in Tesla maintaining its awards of a higher level of ZEV credits by the California Air Resources Board than if such a “fast refueling” option is not available or validated. Tesla sells those ZEV credits to other automakers.



Interesting option.

How does it affect battery pack guarantee?

Roger Pham

Interesting swinging lifestyle! Swapping the most valuable part of the car... First there were GF swapping, then wife swapping, then now, there's battery swapping. No doubt battery swapping designed mainly for ZEV credits.

But seriously, a 1300-lb battery pack that also serve as structural member of the car and is also liquid cooled may not be so easily swapped.
Maintaining fully charged batteries at the station ready for the next swap will rapidly age the battery and shorten its life span.
When people don't own the battery pack, they will more likely not taking good care of it, like keeping it fully charged all the time, or drain it completely many times, or excessive heat exposure.

Option 1: Drive 3-4 hours. Take a 45 minute meal and recharge break at the only decent place to eat in several hours either direction. Drive 3-4 hours. Eating and refueling are concurrent. Refuel cost: Free.

Option 2: Drive 3-4 hours. Get a 3 minute recharge battery swap. You are probably going to need a restroom break. That is going to take at least 10 minutes by the time you park, walk in, get back to the car. Drive 3-4 hours. Refuel cost: ~ $80.

So you can have a really nice steak dinner for 2, for the same price that you will save 30 minutes on a 7-8 hour trip.

Who is going to go for the 30 minute savings for ~$80? If you are in that much of a hurry, if your time is worth that much, you are probably going to want to fly and save 6 hours.

If you fly privately, you can still stop at Harris Ranch for that steak dinner.


That's mad and heavy polluting. Tesla is heading toward bankruptcy that will happen sooner than later. That's the more costly solution there is. 99.9% of the time there won't be anyone in this silly swap station. Im glad im the owner of a simple less polluting car than the tesla. More and more financial analysts are downgrading tesla stock price. This company come from mars and is doing costly tourism on earth.


The idea of wife swapping held out a lot of promise at the time ; offering all the advantages of marriage combined with the thrills and variety of single life. Unfortunately no-one came up with an effective business model that could keep everyone satisfied. Perhaps, if Musk can come up with a workable battery swapping plan maybe it will be copied.

With battery swapping you would either have a system where you re-install the original battery on your return trip or you simply have an exchangeable battery under terms that would be more like a lease or subscription.

You may only swap it a couple times a year but if you are leasing the battery then you have the confidence of having a reliable battery. The resale value of a ten year old Tesla would probably be greatly enhanced if the new buyer knows he will have a reliable battery for as long as the rest of the car remains road worthy without having to buy a brand new battery. The downside is that you would never get away from the cost of the battery though there might be opportunity for competitive after-market battery suppliers which might keep costs low.

Roger Pham

Battery swapping might be a good idea if the batteries are made up of modules of, say 30 kWh, a piece, and you buy the car but lease the battery instead. So, to cut cost down, you lease only 30 kWh's worth of battery, good for 100-mi range per charge. The car is designed to hold 90 kWh of batteries, or 3 packs max. So, buying the car sans battery, you will knock off $44k off the sticker price of $80k, or paying~$36-40k instead. You'll pay lease yearly on the battery pack, but it won't be so bad, because you will save a lot of money on gasoline.

If you opt for less power, say, 180 hp instead of the 365 hp, you will pay even less than $36-40k. At ~$65 per hp, having 185 fewer ponies will save ya $12k off the sticker price, or $36-40k - 12k = $24-28k...for a Tesla?????Hmmm, too good to be true, or what?
I'd say, Tesla ought to slap $7k more of profits, to make the new Tesla at least comparable in purchase price to the new Leaf at $29k, or Chevy Volt, at $35k. We surely don't want to make Tesla looks cheap, do we?

Your car will be much lighter (867 lbs lighter) with 30 kWh battery pack instead of a 90 kWh pack, and you're doing good for the environment by not hoarding all that batteries to yourself, but sharing with other people, so that 3x more car can be made for the same car that contains a 90 kWh pack.

If you need to drive more than 100 miles for certain day, you can swap out your pack for another pack en-route before your little pack will be depleted, or add on another pack or two packs ahead of time to hold 60-90 kWh of battery total before the long day of driving or before the long journey. En-route, you can either use the SuperCharger stations or SuperSwapper stations, which ever will be available that you can find. Then, at the conclusion of your trip, you return the two extra packs that you rented for the journey to the swapping stations, and keep the 30 kWh pack that you're leasing.

This will be a win-win-win-win (win^4) solution for everyone. You win, for being able to afford the 30kWh-Tesla car that you're dreaming of. Your friends win because, by not hoarding the rest of battery to yourself, they, too, can find more Teslas available to buy. Tesla company will win, because Tesla company will be able to build 3x more cars for the same amount of battery available to them and triple the net profit, as well as more lucrative ZEV credits. The environment will win because less fossil fuels will be consumed.

Similar argument can be said for if Tesla would build a PHEV-20kWh, however, this will be only win^3, because the Battery Purists will be greatly disappointed and upset. Or worse, this may represent only win^2, because Tesla won't be getting as much ZEV credits per car, although Tesla will save a lot of money for not having to build Swapping stations, hence more profits! Hmm, quite an accounting dilemma here.


I would put battery swap centers in cities not at Harris Ranch. Tesla owners will need to replace the batteries sooner or later and a 60 kWh pack can cost more than $20,000. This is the Total Cost of Ownership. Don't think that your EV will have a good resale value after 100,000 miles with the same battery pack.

Roger Pham

Good point, SJC.
Battery swapping stations should at least be on the out-bound side of interstates at the limit of the metroplex, for the car owners who lease a 30-kWh pack and want to rent two more 30-kWh packs for the long journey. I propose that batteries be built in 3 modules, of 30-kWh each module. You lease only ONE module of 30 kWh capacity for daily driving and good for 100 mile range, while renting two more modules after departing on a long journey for 90 kWh capacity, just before leaving the city limit. I further propose that you can always hang on to your leased pack, and only swap the other two rented packs. So, when en route and your leased pack shows 1/3 capacity, it's time to swap the other two packs. Then, you'll put your leased pack on SuperCharging at 4 C rate, or 120 kW for 30 kWh pack. Since your leased pack is only 2/3 depleted, or 20 kWh of charge needed, you will be done charging in 10 minutes, plus the 3 minutes for the battery swapping, total 13 minutes! Just enough time for bathroom break and fast food purchasing, and you'll be good for another 250-300 miles or so.

The important difference between buying and leasing battery is that in leasing the battery, it will keep the price of the car way down, and more people will be able to afford a Tesla.
Think of battery as a commodity, like gasoline or hydrogen. By being able to lease the battery, the resale value of the car will always be excellent, due to the lower wear and tear of the motor and electronics in comparison to ICE, vs. trying to sell a BEV with worn-out battery pack.
You can sign the lease for 5-10 years for fixed lease payments, so you can calculate your cost ahead of time and budget accordingly.


"...recently revealed that his (Volt) EV crossed the 200,000-mile threshold without a single problem being encountered — no breakdowns, no repairs, and no noticeable battery capacity loss."

Peter Olorenshaw

I think there are positives with this approach in that you could just own the car not the batteries. You would always have a leased battery pack that perhaps Tesla owns, maintains and guarantees the quality of. That way you would have a much lower purchase price for your car, and a resale price not diminished by having a degraded battery pack in it. Or maybe its a combination of your own 30kW pack as mentioned above and space to lease 2 more 30kW packs when you need them.

Jakir Hossain

That may be mad and heavy polluting. Tesla is heading toward bankruptcy that can happen sooner than in the future. That's the more costly solution there may be. 99. 9% of any time there won't be anyone in this particular silly swap station. Im glad im web-sites a simple less polluting car versus tesla. More and far more financial analysts are downgrading tesla stock options price. This company originated from mars and is doing costly tourism we know.


One factor none have commented on is the re-use of old battery packs: For lithium-ion batteries, there's a potential after-automotive use that can postpone destructive recycling for years. Even when an EV or hybrid battery can no longer hold and discharge sufficient electricity to power the car's motor, the pack can still carry a tremendous amount of juice. Battery manufacturers figure the packs will still be able to operate at about 80 percent of capacity when they have to be retired from automotive use. Auto companies are partnering with battery, recycling and electronics firms to figure out and develop post-automotive markets for lithium-ion battery packs.

For instance, several major power utilities are working with companies — including General Motors, Ford, Toyota and Nissan — to explore the use of the batteries for stationary storage of the power produced in off-peak periods by wind turbines and solar generation stations. Lithium-ion packs also are being tested as backup power storage systems for retail centers, restaurants and hospitals, as well as for residential solar systems.

Could Tesla use this battery swap to get their hands on these old packs for secondary use while swapping in new packs for EV owners as part of a servicing plan?


Nissan announced that their 24 kWh packs will cost $6000 to replace, including the core charge for the old pack. Those packs are not temperature controlled, so the cost is lower. The packs could be put in garages to store energy for the home in case of power outages or a number of different applications.


Looks like Shai Agassi has a job waiting for him at Tesla.

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