Tesla’s battery swap program is pretty much dead

June 10, 2015, 6:08 PM UTC
Tesla's Supercharge station in Gilroy delivers a massive amount of electricity extremely quickly. We were full up after an hour, during which time we walked to an In-N-Out and had a burger.

If Tesla Motors has a kill list, its battery swap program is probably at the top.

After showcasing the technology two years ago, Tesla set up a battery swap station at a custom-built facility at Harris Ranch in Coalinga, Calif. The station became operational in January 2015. The aim was to swap out batteries in about 90 seconds to accommodate Model S owners driving between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Maybe its because drivers initially had to make an appointment to use, or that they have to pay to use it. (A bank of Tesla’s free superchargers are right across the street.) Either way, the battery swap program isn’t being used.

When Tesla sent out an initial round of about 200 invitations to test the battery swap program only about four to five people opted to try it, Musk told shareholders at Tesla’s annual meeting Tuesday at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif. And each of those respondents used the swap service just once.


“It’s clearly not very popular,” Musk said.

Even though Tesla has since invited all Model S owners in California to try the battery swap program, Musk expects the entire customer base will behave similarly to the initial sample group.

“People don’t care about pack swap,” Musk said. “The superchargers are fast enough. Based on what we’re seeing here, it’s unlikely to be something that’s worth expanding in the future unless something changes.”

Tesla opened its first superchargers, which all Model S owners can use for free, in 2012 to encourage long-distance travel. As of March 2015, the company had installed 425 supercharger locations worldwide with a net book value of $128.5 million. The company plans to increase its supercharger locations to 570 this year, and Musk told shareholders that over time solar panels will be added to all locations where it’s possible.

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Tesla has also been aggressively building out its so-called destination charging program over the past year. Tesla has installed its high power wall connector at hotels, resorts, restaurants, and other destinations a Model S owner is likely to visit. The company has nearly 1,2o0 destination charging sites worldwide—with an average of two connectors at each location, according to a Tesla spokeswoman.

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