It’s been over a year and a half since Elon Musk introduced the Tesla battery swap, today Tesla announced that a limited pilot program would begin next week. Though only a few invited Model S owners will participate at first, a swap will cost the same as a full tank of premium gas, and will take just three minutes to change a depleted battery for a fully charged one.
The battery swap station will be located across the street from the Superchargers in Harris Ranch, California, though drivers will have to make an appointment before using it. The pilot project is meant to “test technology and assess demand.” In the blog post announcement, it is noted that the additional titanium battery shield has increased the battery swap time to three minutes, rather than the 90 seconds initially demonstrated. However, Tesla remains confident that with refinement they can get the swap time to less than a minute.
Here’s the thing though; who’s really going to use the battery swap stations? It’s been suggested the only reason Tesla even made it in the first place is to still be eligible for California’s ZEV credits, as California was considering making a 5-minute refill time a requirement for the credits.
However, ZEV credits have become an increasingly small part of Tesla’s income portfolio, as other automakers are able to earn the credits on their own. With 140 Superchargers in the US alone, and most charging done at home anyways, battery swap stations seem like they might be viable in limited numbers and locations. Project Better Place tried to build a whole business model around battery swapping, and that led them straight into bankruptcy.
At least Musk followed through on his promise to open a battery swap station by the end of the year, which is one less thing off my list of complaints. Now let’s get the Model X on the road, and I’ll be a happy camper.