We'll link to this 2009 post up front, just to make sure everyone's clear that the fact that a Tesla EV can, indeed, do battery swaps is old news. Yes, four years ago, we learned the all-electric Model S was designed with battery swaps in mind. Or, as Tesla CEO said tonight, "We designed Model S from the beginning to be capable of swapping out the battery pack faster than you can fill a gas tank." Are we clear? Good.
Still, last night's first public demonstration of such a swap – which took place at the Tesla Design Studio in Los Angeles and involved two Model S EVs getting fresh packs before a gas car at "LA's fastest gas station" filled up its tank with gasoline – represents a big new step in the evolving electric vehicle landscape. With the recent departure of Better Place, no one could blame you if you thought the only reasonable way to travel long-distance in an electric vehicle was to use fast charging (where there are three competing standards: CHAdeMO, SAE Combo and Tesla's own free Supercharger network). But now Tesla has surprised us all with an official announcement about the Model S battery swap. Tesla has been hinting about the battery swap system for weeks now (1, 2), and here's what we learned tonight.
Musk framed the choice to Supercharge or swap as one between "free or fast." While Supercharging costs a Model S driver nothing, getting a new, fully charged battery pack will cost around the same as about 15 gallons of gas (so, let's say around $60). Later, you can get your old pack back (again, fully charged and for another $60 fee) or you can pay an undetermined fee and keep the pack. Forbes says there will be a warranty available on the replacement pack, depending on its condition.
The pack swap stations, which cost around half-a-million dollars to build, will be installed next to Supercharger locations and will be available in busy Tesla areas, like the I5 corridor in California and between Boston and Washington, DC.
We'll have more information later today. There's a video of the demonstration below.