Tesla Shows 90-Second Battery Swapping For Model S, Details Rollout Plans

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As predicted last month, and tweeted and teased by CEO Elon Musk, Tesla Motors showed off battery swapping for its Model S electric car at a press event last night.

Held at Tesla's design studio in Hawthorne, California, the demonstration itself was simple: A Tesla Model S drove onto the stage and stopped over a hole in the floor.

Automated arms reached through the hole, supported the pack and the car, disconnected the fittings, and dropped it through the hole.

Then a replacement pack was moved into position, raised through the hole to sit under the car's floorpan, and reconnected to the car.

The entire process took roughly 90 seconds. The driver remained in the Model S throughout, and pulled away at the 1:33 mark.

Meanwhile, a countdown clock on the video screen behind the car showed a Tesla employee filling an Audi A8 with gasoline at what Musk claimed to be "the fastest gas station in L.A."

Enthusiastic owners

After Musk apologized for the length of time required to fuel up the Audi, the enthusiastic crowd of several hundred--largely Tesla owners--laughed when a second Model S drove on stage.

It too had its battery pack swapped from underneath, and managed to drive away before the Audi finished fueling after more than 4 minutes.

If you want another view of the events beside Tesla's promotional video shown above, try this one.

As Musk has noted, the Tesla Model S was designed from the start to enable its battery pack to be quickly and easily swapped out.

Once the flashy part was over, Musk turned his attention to the details. Our brief summary:


  • Tesla will roll out battery-swapping in California first, with the San Francisco-Los Angeles corridor along I-5 going live by the end of this year
  • Then sometime next year, the company will turn its sights to the Northeast Corridor from Boston through New York City to Washington, D.C.
  • "Tesla Stations" that offer swapping will be located in the same sites as Supercharger fast-charging stations
  • Each will have about 50 batteries, which will be kept fully charged by the existing infrastructure for charging energy-storage batteries at those sites


  • The Supercharger network of DC fast-charging stations will remain, and it will continue to be free for Model S owners to use
  • For the much faster swapping, Tesla will charge owners a fee for the fully-charged battery pack swapped into their car
  • That fee will be roughly equivalent to the cost of 15 gallons of gas, Musk said, perhaps $60 in California
  • In other words, a 20- to 30-minute Supercharge to recharge a pack to 80 percent will be free, but a full recharge in 90 seconds will cost the same as a fill-up

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