Tesla to have battery quick-swap by end of year
LOS ANGELES -- Tesla Motors will have battery quick-swap bays at many of its supercharging stations nationwide.
The first quick-swap stations will be online in the fourth quarter of this year, and allow changing of battery packs in 90 seconds.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk said drivers will pay the equivalent of a tank of gas for the service, between $60 and $80. The company announced the program late Thursday.
The automated bays will have a Tesla Model S drive over a pit, whereupon robots will remove the old battery pack and replace it with a new one to factory-spec torque settings. The driver does not need to leave the car.
Storage of spare batteries will be both above and below ground, Musk said. Each pack weighs about 1,000 pounds.
Each quick-charge station will cost Tesla about $500,000 to build, Musk said.
The initial wave of stations will be along the I-5 corridor in California, as well as the corridor from Boston to Washington, D.C.
Drivers can later return to the same station for their original pack, or keep the new one for a fee, due to the newer pack having a longer warranty period. The changed-out packs will be recharged on-site.
'Pull up and go'
"It's going to be pull up and go. We're going to overstock on the battery front," Musk said.
Consumers can still choose to recharge their existing battery at the free supercharger. Musk has promised the full-charge time would drop from 45 minutes to about 20 minutes within the year.
"The decision is, do you prefer faster or free?" Musk said.
Musk said he would be wiling to license the quich-swap technology to anyone willing to meet Tesla's operating standards.
California and nine states that follow its Zero-Emission Vehicle program require carmakers to generate compliance credits by selling models that emit little or no tailpipe exhaust, including plug-in hybrids, battery-only cars and hydrogen vehicles. Large manufacturers need the most credits to comply and Tesla, with annual volume too small to be covered by the rules, is a surplus credit generator.
Last month Tesla, which has nearly tripled in market value this year, said its first-ever quarterly profit was aided by $67.9 million in ZEV credit sales to companies it didn’t name.
Credit sales will drop in the second quarter and may disappear in 2013’s second half, Musk said in an earnings call last month.
Tesla has said it plans to sell 21,000 Model S cars this year, with deliveries to Europe and Asia beginning in the second half. Demand currently exceeds Tesla’s production capacity, Musk said Thursday, without elaborating.
Each Model S generates between five and seven credits for Tesla, determined by battery size, under a requirement that they can be refueled in 10 minutes or less, according to California’s Air Resources Board.
Battery swapping capability currently satisfies that “fast refueling” requirement, David Clegern, a spokesman for the agency, said by e-mail. CARB is considering a rule change that would remove pack swapping as a fast-refueling option, he said.
Hydrogen vehicles such as Honda Motor Co.’s FCX Clarity fuel-cell sedan are the only other cars that currently earn as many as seven credits per vehicle, according to California rules.
“Are we simply doing this for the CARB credits? That is not the case,” Musk said. The company’s revenue from ZEV credit sales will decline over time relative to its vehicle sales as deliveries to global markets grow, he said. He estimated that U.S. sales will account for only about a third of Tesla’s volume, of which only half will generate credits.
Bloomberg contributed to this report.
Send us a letter
Have an opinion about this story? Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor, and we may publish it in print.