Tesla tentatively tests battery swap plan

Today Tesla Motors announced a pilot program to test the battery-swap scheme for its Model S sedans shown off last year.

Wayne Cunningham Managing Editor / Roadshow
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
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Tesla's demo shows how fast the Model S's battery can be swapped.

Tesla demonstrates a fast battery swap
In an event last year, Tesla swapped the battery pack in a Model S faster than it took a staff member to fill the tank in an Audi. Tesla

Last year, Tesla showed it could swap the big battery pack in its Model S sedans faster than you can fill the tank in an Audi A6. Today, the electric car manufacturer posted a blog entry noting it would launch a pilot program for the battery-swap scheme.

Tesla will conduct the battery-swap program at a special station across the street from its Superchargers at Harris Ranch, California off Interstate 5. This station will become operational next week.

Model S drivers will be able to drive to the facility and have their drained battery swapped for a freshly charged one, letting them continue on their journey. The post describes Tesla's Superchargers as the "free" option and the battery swaps as the "fast" one. Although no specific price was mentioned for a battery swap, Tesla notes that it will "cost slightly less than a full tank of gasoline for a premium sedan." Given gasoline prices in California, that "full tank" may be estimated as high as $80.

Where the 2013 demonstration showed a Model S battery swap in 90 seconds, the battery swaps at the facility are estimated at three minutes, substantially less time than the 20 to 30 minutes it takes to charge up at a Supercharger.

Tesla has expanded its Supercharger network rapidly, and now boasts 312 locations. The battery-swap facility at Harris Ranch will be run as a test to determine demand. Building similar stations will require much more investment than the Supercharger expansion.