As you may recall, when the Tesla Model S sedan was first put on sale, a rapid “battery-swap” functionality was advertised. This feature was promised to cut down dramatically on the time it takes to go from depleted to charged as the battery could simply be dropped from the vehicle and replaced with a fully charged one.
We’ve been led in the past to ponder whether the demonstrated and verified battery-swap feature was ever really more than an empty promise, regardless of its physical plausibility.
But that may not matter soon, as Autoblog reports that recent statements made by CEO Elon Musk suggest that the automaker may be on the brink of giving up the battery-swap push in the Tesla Model S altogether.
The comments came at Tesla Motors’ recent annual shareholder meeting, at which Autoblog reports Mr. Musk said the following:
We have, basically, the LA-to-San Francisco pack swap capability in place, and I believe all Model S owners in the California area have been invited at this point to try it out. And what we’re seeing is a very low take rate for the pack swap station. So we did an initial round of invitations, where we did basically, like, 200 invitations, and I think there were a total of four or five people that wanted to do that, and they all did it just once. So, like, okay, clearly it’s not very popular. And then we said, okay, let’s expand that invitation to all customers, but I would expect that all customers behave roughly like that initial sample group.
It’s just, people don’t care about pack swap. The Superchargers are fast enough that if you’re driving from LA to San Francisco, and you start a trip at 9 AM, by the time you get to, say, noon, you want to stop, and you want to stretch your legs, hit the restroom, grab a bite to eat, grab a coffee, and be on your way, and by that time, the car is charged and ready to go, and it’s free. So, it’s like, why would you do the pack swap? It doesn’t make much sense.
We built the pack swap into the car because we weren’t sure if people would want to choose the pack swap or not. We thought people would prefer Supercharging, but we weren’t sure, so that’s why we built the pack swap capability in. And, you know, based on what we’re seeing here, it’s unlikely to be something that’s worth expanding in the future, unless something changes.
It’s worth noting that beside the sufficient speed, availability, and freeness of Tesla’s supercharging stations, they hold another distinct advantage over the single pilot Tesla Model S battery-swap station in Harris Ranch, California: the battery-swap station requires an advance reservation. That one is required to schedule an appointment in order to have a fresh battery swapped-in arguably undermines the purpose of offering such and expedient means of “refuelling.”
Yours truly has also often wondered about the possibility of having someone else’s neglected, sub-par battery pack installed into your Tesla Model S.
You can watch CEO Elon Musk’s entire shareholder meeting speech at the Tesla Motors website, though you’ll want to skip ahead to around 1 hour and 10 minutes for the executive’s comments regarding the Tesla Model S pilot battery-swap program.