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Remember when Musk promised swapping batteries instead of charging?

vapor trail

Member
Sep 9, 2015
239
223
Roseville, CA
I recall a period fairly early on when Musk was touting future changes at superchargers where customers would be able to simply swap out batteries on the fly for fully charged battery packs. I think he was arguing it would be faster than filling a tank of gas. I never thought that was a realistic plan.

Well concept doesn't seem so far-fetched to one company:


Interesting to see this materialize. Wonder if it'll be sustainable or a flash in the pan.
 

Traguar

Member
Jan 20, 2020
98
65
London
Don't know about you, but over here, theft of catalytic converters is epidemic levels. Partly cos its easy quick money with little to no risk. Personally I do NOT want my expensive battery pack to be easy to remove, I'm quite happy if it takes hours so long as I can charge at a decent rate. I can then sleep soundly knowing my battery will still be there in the morning.
My charge box and cable is another matter...
 

Huachipato

Member
Jul 16, 2019
240
177
Murphy, TX
Tesla had it working early on. Battery swap was like a 2 minute process (edit: 1 minute 33 seconds) in the old Model S. Tesla even had an automated battery swap station out there for use but the number of people who used it was so low, the demand was practically not there at all so based on that information he scrapped the idea.

Video of Tesla demo here:
 

roblab

Active Member
Jul 15, 2008
3,558
2,626
Angwin (Napa Valley) CA
I would think this is a fringe case. My car charges in my garage up to about 400 miles of range. Firstly, most Uber drivers would charge full overnight, and then wouldn't drive that far in a day, and secondly, I can't imagine that an Uber driver doesn't stop for a half hour somewhere, to eat, use the restroom, etc. Now, using a Nissan Leaf, with a range of around half what I have, and having a usage of a lot more than a Leaf battery supplies, well, sure. But this is just a case of using the wrong tool for the job. In the city, driving a few miles for each customer, a Leaf would do fine, and having to take a half hour or more break is pretty much required in most jobs.

As far as changing the battery vs. replacing it, well, it looked like the problem was building a large lift with accompanying hydraulics that could pull the spent battery out of the car, put it in a slot, grab a new battery and lift it into place, as opposed to just wiring up a cord you can plug into your car for a half hour.
That's a lot of difference. If Nissan had worked on supercharging they'd not have this problem, or if the Uber driver had bought a 3, he'd not be caught short. You could have a hundred cheap charging sites as opposed to one expensive battery swap station, where cars would be lined up around the block waiting for this swap.

When I saw the Tesla swap station down at Harris Ranch, it wasn't instantaneous, nor was it even "ten minutes". Charging my car took about as long as the guy doing the swap. It's quite obvious that supercharging worked better for a number of reasons, as evidenced by Tesla abandoning the replacement route. Near my house there is a supercharging site where twenty cars can charge up at once in about a half an hour. And this is ten miles from another site where another twenty cars can charge up in a half hour. No way could a swap station do this volume. Plus, the swap station had to be manned with a trained mechanic at all times. He left for home at 5, so if you got there late, well, too bad. Stay at the hotel, we open again at 8AM.

And added to that, no one wanted to swap batteries with some dude who always charged to 100% in a hot garage. There was a lot of discussion about making sure you got your own gently treated battery back.
 

BigNick

Infamous Fat Sweaty Guy
Dec 3, 2017
1,233
1,477
Pennsylvania, USA
Don't know about you, but over here, theft of catalytic converters is epidemic levels. Partly cos its easy quick money with little to no risk. Personally I do NOT want my expensive battery pack to be easy to remove, I'm quite happy if it takes hours so long as I can charge at a decent rate. I can then sleep soundly knowing my battery will still be there in the morning.
My charge box and cable is another matter...
No one is going to walk away with a Tesla vehicle battery tucked under their arm, even if they manage to unbolt it on the street.
 

Yanniz

Member
Apr 16, 2021
28
21
Snohomish
Don't know about you, but over here, theft of catalytic converters is epidemic levels. Partly cos its easy quick money with little to no risk. Personally I do NOT want my expensive battery pack to be easy to remove, I'm quite happy if it takes hours so long as I can charge at a decent rate. I can then sleep soundly knowing my battery will still be there in the morning.
My charge box and cable is another matter...
Do you know how much a battery pack weighs?
 
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vapor trail

Member
Sep 9, 2015
239
223
Roseville, CA
I agree, even if Tesla had gone that route, given wide variations in battery health, doubtful I would have ever used it. 99.99% of my charging is done at home. If needed during road trip, I'm fine with taking a break and letting car charge at supercharger. This is another example though of when Musk makes loud proclamations about the future that never pan out. This time, probably for the better.
 
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FoxSTL2HOU

Member
Nov 12, 2018
496
288
HOU
Tesla had it working early on. Battery swap was like a 2 minute process (edit: 1 minute 33 seconds) in the old Model S. Tesla even had an automated battery swap station out there for use but the number of people who used it was so low, the demand was practically not there at all so based on that information he scrapped the idea.
The reason I remember it being shelved was because of the titanium shield that was added to the battery, which added 15-30 min or so to the swapout.

 
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Traguar

Member
Jan 20, 2020
98
65
London
No one is going to walk away with a Tesla vehicle battery tucked under their arm, even if they manage to unbolt it on the street.
As these guys already go equipped with vans battery or petrol powered cutting tools, lifting gear and weapons to threaten anyone that disturbs them I'm not sure a bit of weight is going to put them off. I'll leave this as it obviously isn't a problem over there, but it wouldn't end well for owners in the UK
 

BigNick

Infamous Fat Sweaty Guy
Dec 3, 2017
1,233
1,477
Pennsylvania, USA
As these guys already go equipped with vans battery or petrol powered cutting tools, lifting gear and weapons to threaten anyone that disturbs them I'm not sure a bit of weight is going to put them off. I'll leave this as it obviously isn't a problem over there, but it wouldn't end well for owners in the UK
Sounds like they're about as well-equipped as a Russian hacker gang, just committing a different type of theft.

I haven't heard of operations like this here, at least not locally. Might happen in Baltimore, DC, Pittsburgh or Philly though.
 

maximizese

Member
Jan 16, 2018
480
462
California
No one is going to walk away with a Tesla vehicle battery tucked under their arm, even if they manage to unbolt it on the street.
Bruce Banner might be able to but you'd have to piss him off first, though theft was never his MO...

Seriously, I thought the battery-swap idea would have been the way to go during the Great Recession when there were lots of vacant commercial space and cheap land, but the business model would have been difficult as it would place a lot of pressure on Tesla to be a landowner and the analytics that certain directional migration would lead to some areas dropping off more spent battery packs than others (basically any station with a significant elevation gain, thus resulting in the need to transport several 900lb+ battery packs to other facilities would be very inefficient. However, here were some perks to the idea of battery swapping that I thought would help the adoption of EVs:

1) It could separate the cost of the EV and the battery pack. Imagine buy or renting the car, then renting or subscribing to the the use of the battery pack. It could essentially drop the MSRP of the EV anywhere from $8K-$32K depending on the pack.

2) The user could have the flexibility of pack sizes depending on their short-term usage. Imagine renting a 60kWh pack for local commuting then swapping for the larger 100kWh pack for a road-trip.

3) Better battery health monitoring. Each battery swap station could evaluate and rate the health of the battery pack to preemptively catch any cells or modules from declining performance (not sure if this would really happen).

To be fair, there are a lot of cons to this concept as well and would likely expose the company to more areas of flaws/failures.


This model is apparently working out in China, but our travel habits and our love for consumer choice makes me think Tesla make the right choice. Besides, they went with the Marriott model of not being owner the real estate and instead partnered with the landowners so they can expand both faster and cheaper...why gimp yourself and tie-up free-cash flow.
 
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Chaserr

Hyperactive Hyperdrive
Sep 5, 2017
2,666
5,595
Logan
Don't know about you, but over here, theft of catalytic converters is epidemic levels. Partly cos its easy quick money with little to no risk. Personally I do NOT want my expensive battery pack to be easy to remove, I'm quite happy if it takes hours so long as I can charge at a decent rate. I can then sleep soundly knowing my battery will still be there in the morning.
My charge box and cable is another matter...
You're in the Model S forum. Your battery can be removed in 90 seconds!
 

Huachipato

Member
Jul 16, 2019
240
177
Murphy, TX
If I recall correctly part of the benefit (issue?) was that Tesla wanted you to come back and swap your battery back in at some point. They would even charge your battery back up for you.

Essentially Tesla was the only entity lending out their batteries. You were never getting anybody else's worn our battery in the proocess.
 
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jboy210

Supporting Member
Dec 2, 2016
5,220
3,243
Northern California
If I recall correctly part of the benefit (issue?) was that Tesla wanted you to come back and swap your battery back in at some point. They would even charge your battery back up for you.

Essentially Tesla was the only entity lending out their batteries. You were never getting anybody else's worn our battery in the proocess.
That implies you go back the same way you came. One every year or so I go to LA. I could go to LA via I-5 and come back via Highway 1.

I guess these and other logistical issues plus the Supercharging network were a part of the reasons the project was shuttered.
 

whitex

Well-Known Member
Sep 30, 2015
6,617
7,946
Seattle area, WA
Tesla had it working early on. Battery swap was like a 2 minute process (edit: 1 minute 33 seconds) in the old Model S. Tesla even had an automated battery swap station out there for use but the number of people who used it was so low, the demand was practically not there at all so based on that information he scrapped the idea.

Video of Tesla demo here:
Sure, Tesla had everything working ages ago. Remember the charging snake? Remember Full Self Driving (video showed it fully working in 2016!)? Remember the Software Development Kit to write applications for the MCU? Tesla did it all first, as vaporware hype.

The battery change demo was probably staged like the FSD demo (maybe fake battery, or battery not completely installed, maybe no coolant in the system, etc). What supports that theory? Well, if you can change the battery in 1:33 seconds, why does a battery change at a service center require hours to do the same? Also, the people who used the one and only experimental (or for government incentives) swap station reported that the change time was nowhere near the 2 minutes hyped up by Elon.
 
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PCMc

Member
Jul 1, 2016
192
150
Columbus, IN
I do not see this really making sense in the personal vehicle space for a multitude of reasons, some of which have already been mentioned.

However, battery swapping is being considered for commercial vehicles, such as city buses, where vehicles are in continual service and the total energy demands are higher. In these cases the trade-off on size of pack vs. recharging time vs. time in service are different than what you think for a personal use vehicle. It potentially also fits in an operational economic model for transport companies that want to trade-off some of their capital costs maybe in different ways or may want operate on what is more of a battery lease model where the actual packs are owned by the company operating the swap station for the municipal bus fleet owner.

There are a few systems already in operation. The vehicles are specifically designed with this approach in mind along with automated swapping stations.

Here's a video where you can see a system in operation in Korea. As I said, you'll see the bus is specificallly set up for this and the swap is completed in what's essentially the time of a short stop at a terminal with passengers still on-board the bus.

 
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