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Swapping is Coming [Discuss how it will be accomplished]

Discussion in 'Charging Standards and Infrastructure' started by Citizen-T, May 12, 2013.

  1. Citizen-T

    Citizen-T Active Member

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    #1 Citizen-T, May 12, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: May 12, 2013
    Battery swapping is coming. There is little doubt at this point that part 5 of Elon's trilogy is battery swapping.

    Now, I know there are a number of threads that are discussing this, and debating the pros and cons of swapping, and arguing about whether or not it is a good idea. The fact of the matter is, none of that matters. Apparently they have found a way to make it work. So, I don't want to rehash any of those old arguments in this thread. I want to figure out what Elon and company know. If he found a way to make this work, then there is no reason we can't figure it out too. Let's do what we do best and scoop his announcement.

    Let's start with what we know about Elon's strategy for dealing with these things. It seems to me that the way Elon attacks a problem is that he first studies the opposing arguments. He compiles them all together, then he ranks them and begins knocking out each leg of the argument one at a time. That's what this 5-part trilogy is all about after all: he's taking the bear case against Tesla and attacking each point one at a time.

    So, let's do the same. Let's compile together the list of arguments against battery swapping, then let's figure out what Tesla could be doing to "solve" these problems.

    This is what I've got to start. Let me know if I should add anything.

    • Swapping is too expensive
    • They need to have a ton of batteries on hand (to be able to handle the worst case) but most of the time they are sitting around doing nothing.
    • Why would they bother building out the Supercharger network if they are going to do swapping too?
    • I take really good care of my battery, I don't want to end up with someone else's random battery.
    • Swapping stations are too mechanically complex, would be a pain to maintain.

    So, let's compile some potential answers to each of these arguments. Again, it doesn't matter whether you agree with these arguments or not, it only matters that some do. If anyone believes these things, they are an argument worth squashing in Elon's book (think about the bricked battery thing).

    The Answer (a work in progress)

    The Tesla Battery Swapping Network will be a subset of the Supercharger Network. This means that all battery swap stations will also be supercharging stations, but not all supercharging stations will be battery swap stations. The highest traffic supercharger stations will be selected for upgrade to battery swap stations to reduce the amount of time the average person needs to wait.

    The stations will only have a limited number of batteries. Owners will be able to reserve a battery for up to 30 mins before their arrival at the station via their smartphone app or the center console in their Model S. This balances the desire of the owner to know ahead of time how long they will need to stop for with the station's goal to not have reserved batteries sitting idle when other owners could be using them. This also gives the station enough time to Supercharge a battery for the owner and have it ready just in time for the owner to swap.

    If an owner is unable to reserve a battery, then they will need to use the superchargers that are available at the station. This should only occur when traveling at peak times and only for a minority of owners visiting the station.

    There will be a per-use cost for battery swapping. This helps to offset the cost of maintenance on the stations, but more importantly, creates an economic incentive for owners to use the free Superchargers if they are planning on stopping for a while anyway. Tesla is trying to avoid having owners swap their battery, then immediately park to go use the restroom and grab a bite to eat. The Supercharger would have worked just fine for their use case, and a small fee is probably enough to make them behave in the way that we want.

    Tesla already has the cheapest battery packs around, and by increasing their production of packs for these stations, they'll get even greater price reductions for the cells that they purchase for the packs (and other economies of scale). Furthermore, once they demonstrate the ability to battery swap, the Model S becomes eligible for even more ZEV credits per car. The added revenue from selling these credits also helps to offset the cost to build these stations. Finally, batteries at the station will not be sitting idle. They will store energy collected by the onsite solar arrays or the grid during times of low use and then they'll be drawn from for Supercharging (assuming they have not been reserved by an incoming owner). This will help reduce the operating cost of the superchargers.

    Because Tesla warranties all batteries against anything at all (except intentional tampering) there is no reason to be concerned about what battery you end up with in your car. You can feel perfectly confident that your battery will perform and Tesla will take care of it if it doesn't.​

    Alright. That's what I've got so far. Please contribute your own ideas or rip into mine. I'll update this story to reflect what I think are the best ideas emerging from the discussion.
     
  2. Johan

    Johan Took a TSLA bear test. Came back negative.

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    To possible problems that I think may come up and needs to be adressed:
    - Are Tesla going to have both 60kWh and 85kWh batteries availabe for swapping, and if not, will swapping be only for the 85kWh batteries? Will buyers of the 60kWh cars feel left out and cheated? Or will they also be able to swap (the 60kWh against an 85kWh battery) and if so at what cost and terms (how long can they keep the 85kWh in the car)?
    - If the future is not owning, but leasing the battery, what about current owners who have paid a lot for their batteries. It's not defined how much the battery actually costs, the only thing we know is that to go from 60 to 85kWh costs $10.000. Will Tesla "buy back" the batteries from current buyers and owners and offer a (mandatory?) leasing deal in replacement?
    - What about sticking to the current form factor of battery packs? Good for the Model X but what about Gen III which is going to very likely be a physically smaller car with a physically smaller battery? Won't have more than one form factor make the swapping more resource- and space consuming?
     
  3. jerry33

    jerry33 S85 - VIN:P05130 - 3/2/13

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    The big problem with leasing batteries is that if the lease company decides you haven't paid this month's lease, your car is turned off. This will not be acceptable to many. Not knowing whether you will be able to drive your car the next day or not because of some accounting screwup is not particularly confidence inspiring.

    To answer your question, I suspect that leasing won't be mandatory.

    - - - Updated - - -

    I don't think there is much doubt about that. I sure hope Elon can pull a rabbit out of his hat for this because everything I've ever read about traditional battery swapping makes it a horrible solution and takes resources away from the Supercharger rollout. With luck, the battery swapping will be of the Li-Air variety in the frunk's microwave space or something similar (of course, I'll have to find a new place for the microwave but I can deal with that.)

    Which isn't going to help on a family vacation when your S.O. complains about your choice of cars. Also it doesn't cover the service person's statement "It doesn't take long to change the battery but we will need to keep the car for two days to ensure it's working correctly after the swap".
     
  4. Jason S

    Jason S Model S Sig Perf (P85)

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    I'd really like to have the option to get *my* battery pack back. Perhaps using the swap as a 'loaner' or 'rental' till I come back through the same area.
     
  5. Citizen-T

    Citizen-T Active Member

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    If they can't charge your battery and give it to someone else, then the number of battery packs they need to have on hand to make the station useful explodes (they also need space to store your battery). I think that they need to be able to supercharge your battery and give it to someone else to make economics work. Yes?
     
  6. jeff_adams

    jeff_adams Member

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    I am still not sold on the swapping theory. Where do the swaps take place?

    Don't tell me service centers, because you don't need juice there, you need it between destinations (in other words, look where the planned supercharger locations will be compared to the service center locations. They won't match up).

    I don't buy swapping at the present supercharger locations. The newest one we are aware of will be in Normal. It's on the roof of a parking garage. No way to have swapping infrastructure up there. Tesla didn't even mention battery swapping to city officials during negotiations.

    Adding swapping means new locations for infrastructure. So they are negotiating store locations, service center locations, supercharge locations AND swap locations?
     
  7. CapitalistOppressor

    CapitalistOppressor Active Member

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    It simplifies the operations. But storing the battery is a solvable problem. RedBox routinely takes reservations for movies and holds them until you come to pick them up. In process terms its a trivial task to engineer. It just requires additional resources be devoted to the swap station infrastructure and a larger inventory for the batteries.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Clearly many of the existing SuperCharger locations are unsuitable. However, SuperChargers were intentionally built in areas where there are existing facilities, because people need a place to hang out while waiting for their car to charge. SuperSwappers can be set up anywhere that there is sufficient power and an exit from the interstate.

    And as I mentioned in another thread, these will be service centers. All of the talk about $200m being needed in 2013 to expand "service centers" was code for the new swap stations. Many (all?) likely will have unmanned service facilities attached to provide lilly pad support to Ranger technicians.

    This provides coverage to the region, and peace of mind to customers, who will be towed to a (relatively) nearby swap facility and met by a Ranger if anything goes wrong.

    Or maybe I'm wrong.
     
  8. stopcrazypp

    stopcrazypp Well-Known Member

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    It simply requires an inventory of batteries entirely separate from "owner" packs. I don't think the numbers will explode, just that the battery swap "network" must be independent of owner packs.
     
  9. Lloyd

    Lloyd Active Member

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    I cant think of any instance where I would use battery swapping, leasing, or rental. I'm much happier owning my battery, charging it with my own power, or supercharging. I belive that this is a not needed option that causes more issues and expense for Tesla. Better place showed us the flaws in the concept!
     
  10. CapitalistOppressor

    CapitalistOppressor Active Member

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    What were the flaws exactly? From my point of view they failed because they were using unappealing vehicles with a short range while gouging their customers for huge sums of money with their deceptive lease. And for this unsavory package to even have a chance at succeeding it required massive upfront capital expenditures, with swap stations required every 25 miles(!!!).

    Tesla started with an attractive package that customers want even in the absence of swapping. We don't know the terms of the battery swap (I am leaning towards a fee structure that accounts for miles used, and time in possession) for Tesla yet. But unlike Better Place, Tesla will only need a few hundred of these to service the entirety of North America (at a per station capital cost that would not be drastically more than the per station cost of the Better Place model).

    People are focusing on ZEV credits, but those are a sideshow in the grand scheme of things. This system could allow Tesla to cap the battery requirement for future vehicles right at the 180-230 mile sweet spot they have established. Future improvements in battery density will translate immediately into smaller less expensive packs, as opposed to being used for greater range.

    This will allow the Tesla-Borg to send a marketshare spike hurtling directly at the heart of the major automakers in the next few years. All for a few hundred million in capital expenditures that could result in Tesla minting money when the GenIII fleet hits the roads. Even if they do not charge for the service, they still benefit from all of the primary and secondary knock on effects.
     
  11. mckemie

    mckemie Member

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    Seems like I've read that SuperCharger stations were supposed to use batteries for buffers. Charge the batteries at night with cheap electricity to supply charging demand during the day. Or, buffer solar energy for night time demand. I suspected that the battery use was just eco window dressing. But, if battery buffers are used, that might increase the value of having a large stock of swapping batteries.

    Has anyone seen batteries at a SuperCharger station?
     
  12. Lloyd

    Lloyd Active Member

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    #12 Lloyd, May 12, 2013
    Last edited: May 12, 2013

    Possible it was the vehicle they chose, but ultimately it is the end user that makes the concept work. It has to provide value and convenience for the end user to accept and adopt it.
    1. I enjoy not stopping at gas stations or battery swapping stations to get my power
    2. I would assume that renting or leasing a battery in the long run would cost more as the responsibility for battery wear and usage falls to the leasing or renting company.

    I believe that Better place was not a success because they did not, or were not able to provide the value and convenience.
     
  13. Daniel Scherer

    Daniel Scherer Junior Member

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    I wouldn't think you would have to pay for the swap at all if located at the Superchargers. I would think having 10 batteries precharged and ready to go would be easier on the solar stations than hi speed charging all the time. The power would be more grid stable especially for on peak grid use if Tesla/Solar city have a net metering agreement with Utility companies. Distributed Power is what we all need to have a stable grid.
     
  14. markwj

    markwj Moderator, Asia Pacific

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    I can't see how it works with owner-owned batteries. With leasing, sure, but if you own the battery how can swapping work?

    Sure, Tesla warranties the batteries for everything but 'normal' capacity loss.

    But, would you accept a swap of a battery that has had 200 cycles on it for your 5 cycle only-had-it-a-month battery? A solution is for the swap station to keep a number of batteries of different CAC ranges - perhaps 10 ranges of battery quality x 2 for 60kWh and 85kWh, and that is 20 different battery types to be held in inventory.

    I've been on the receiving end of a battery swap from Tesla (for my roadster), and I can tell you that no matter what the Ranger tells you about the replacement battery being of similar capacity / quality, I still ended up with an uncomfortable feeling. The new battery becomes 'mine', and I have no idea how the previous owner treated it.

    Given the cost of battery swap infrastructure, and the marginal time saving (10-15 mins for a new 100% full battery, vs 30 mins for a 50% topup), I really can't see it.

    Anyway, if they were to do it, the only workable way is leased, imho. That avoids the inventory and ownership issues.
     
  15. SFOTurtle

    SFOTurtle Active Member

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    Sorry if I've missed a few steps, but assuming Tesla could get over the hurdle of having the physical space to store a half dozen or dozen battery packs at these special Supercharging stations, how many people does Tesla need to employ to replace, service, and protect these batteries, and at what cost?
     
  16. smorgasbord

    smorgasbord Active Member

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    In another thread on this topic, I proposed a "Road Trip" solution:

    1) Drive to the furthest Swap Station you can reach on your battery's full charge.
    2) Swap batteries. Yours gets tagged, charged, and put on a shelf
    3) Drive to the next charging station and swap again.
    4) Reach your destination. Charge overnight/whatever.
    5) Drive home, stopping at Swap Stations as needed.
    6) Stop at the first Swap Station and get your fully charged original battery back.
    7) Drive home.

    Your battery is used only in your car, so no worries about its condition.
     
  17. Cattledog

    Cattledog Active Member

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    Perhaps it's a combo approach, with battery swapping at service centers and the continual us of the ever expanding, and quickening, supercharging network. Here's how it might work (disclaimer - not a chemist, not a metallurgist, just an architect):

    1. If you're going on a long trip, say more than 600 miles (a pretty achievable driving day with two SC stops), or you are going far off the SC Network, you go to a Tesla Service Center and get a new combo battery that has a lithium component and an aluminum component, all in the existing form factor of the battery. You leave your battery with Tesla at Service Center. Tesla charges you for this service. You leave with a fully charged lithium battery (probably > 200 miles range, either a 60 or newer, higher density cells) and a fully charged aluminum battery system to use when you get off the SC network or want to buzz past a SC. As long as you don't exceed the aluminum component's capacity (some are saying 1,000 miles, but not rechargeable), you're good.
    2. Enjoy trip.
    3. Return to home base Tesla Service Center, get your battery back (it's had a little TLC - Tesla Loving Care [is that trademarked?] and is conditioned to be almost as good as new.
    4. Be happy you are helping to change the world.

    I don't know if aluminum thing is optimized to fit form factor of lithium battery, WAG on my part. Highly distributed battery swapping at SC stations sounds complex to me.

    SFO turtle - That's why swaps happen at Service Centers pre-trip, already staffed. You simply get the frankenstein combo battery before you go, tap into aluminum component only as necessary. Could in theory swap again at another service center if on the mother of all road trips and are zig-zagging off the SC network.
     
  18. smorgasbord

    smorgasbord Active Member

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    Note the main appeal to swapping is not so much quicker stops as it is the ability to buy a smaller battery for your everyday use and then swap for big batteries during road trips. IMHO, anyway.
     
  19. NotTarts

    NotTarts Member

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    I like Cattledog's idea, but I'm firmly against battery swapping stations. They have a high initial cost, are mechanically very complex, potentially require constant staffing and maintenance, and on top of that use a fairly significant amount of land area and don't necessarily solve congestion problems. Compare that to superchargers which are cheap, have very few moving parts, and can be placed almost anywhere with little maintenance required.
     
  20. richkae

    richkae VIN587

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    Begin conjecture:
    Suppose that Tesla has made a breakthrough on the consumable aluminum battery that gives a couple thousand miles range. It will take a couple of years before they can bring it to market.
    Future cars that use this system will have 2 batteries, a consumable aluminum battery and a regular LiIon battery. Typical daily driving uses none of the consumable battery, which you only dip into on long trips. When you go on long trips, you will eventually want to swap your battery ( typically only a couple of times per year, but more if you do a lot of long trips ).

    To use this system, Tesla needs to build out swap stations.
    Current cars are not optimal for battery swapping unless the batteries are leased. However if the batteries are leased, the system could work.
    Since Tesla needs to build out swap stations for the new consumable hybrid batteries, why not start now and learn all the battery swapping lessons necessary ( technical, business, and marketing lessons ). As a side effect - more ZEV credits. The additional ZEV credits may actually provide enough money to pay for swap stations to do the experiment.
    End conjecture.
     

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