Purchasing new hardware? Read our latest product comparisons

Tesla shows off 90-second battery swap system


June 21, 2013

Tesla ran two Model S's through the swap system in under 3.09

Tesla ran two Model S's through the swap system in under 3.09

Image Gallery (7 images)

As part of Tesla's ongoing efforts to keep on Model S drivers on the road and away from the plug socket, the company has demonstrated a battery swapping service that takes a mere tick over 90 seconds – and is hands-free to boot.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk pointed out the Model S’ battery swap-ability was designed into the car back in 2009. The technology is the same as the one used during the manufacture process. Similar to Better Place’s now defunct system, drivers position their Model S over the replacement hole where sensors then detect and align. The automated system then removes the bolts holding the old 1,200 lb (544 kg) battery, sliding it down and out of the way and installing a new freshly charged battery. The whole thing took exactly 1 minute 33 seconds, which was less time than an Audi A4 took to fill its tank, at least according to Tesla's simultaneous demo.

Musk makes clear that owners “can have fast or you can have free,” meaning Model S owners can hit up the free Supercharger networks for some free juice or go with the battery swap for a fee. According to Forbes Model S owners will have the option to switch out the battery pack for roughly the price of 15 gallons (57 liters) of gas. For an anticipated fee of US$60–80, drivers can pick up their original (now recharged) battery on their return leg. Owners are billed via their credit card for the service without ever having to leave their cars.

Battery-swap stations will be installed next to existing Supercharger stations.

Source: Tesla Motors

About the Author
Angus MacKenzie Born on the cold, barren Canadian plains of Calgary, Alberta, Angus MacKenzie couldn’t decide between marketing, automotives or an entrepreneurial path - so he chose all three. With an education in automotives and marketing, Angus has rebuilt the carburetor on his 1963 Rambler Ambassador twice, gotten a speeding ticket in an F430 once, and driven & photographed everything from Lamborghinis to Maseratis to various German and Asian designs. When not writing, Angus has for the past six years been Editor-in-Chief for elemente, an internationally recognized architecture/design magazine. All articles by Angus MacKenzie

Since this is a first try, it's acceptable. Do it in twelve second, I dare you. That should be all the time J.A.R.V.I.S. should need.


Another market disrupted by a silicon valley company.


A worthy effort, but there is still a very wide gap between the supply of charging stations and petrol stations! Maybe, just maybe hydrogen will end up on top of the heap, but for the addition of one (large) tank at each or at a few petrol station(s) and a little space taken out of the trunk for car storage, and liquefied gas can fill all your driving needs. The car starts on petrol, switches over automatically within seconds and you always have the tank of petrol to fall back on. At present most oil fields seem to just burn it off (the gas) to lower pressure at the wellhead.

The Skud

I think this is an acceptable compromise.

As batteries get smaller and lighter it will become a man portable unit that is exchanged at the counter like a barbecue LPG bottle.

In the mean time this system will do. Convenience will breed duplication. If this system proves itself more will appear.


A few battery swapping stations does not solve the problem of short range and that high speed charging damages the battery and normal charging takes absurd lengths of time for someone trying to get out of a hurricanes way or to Grandma's house 500 miles away.

Re; The Skud

The gas that they burn off at the wellhead is not hydrogen. Some of the gasses in crude oil are extremely corrosive and burning them off as soon as possible is the best way to deal with them.


This is not really like a quick fuel-fill, note "drivers can pick up their original (now recharged) battery on their return leg." is more specifically HAVE TO pick up their own battery.

The point is you end up with your own battery afterwards, imagine what happens if you get a replacement some distance from home then can't / forget to collect your own battery?

This system would only work if batteries are rented and you just keep swapping for a different one without having to worry about ownership.


To correct a few things from above:

This swaps your battery. You can choose to keep the battery and pay a max $80 (gas prices). Of course, if not in a hurry, just charge your battery in 30 mins for FREE.

Hydrogen. It's a volatile gas with ZERO infrastructure. Electricity on the other hand is already everywhere. And Yes, you can charge your car at home overnight when you're asleep.

Musk shows two cars "powered up" in the same time that one takes to be "gassed up" and people scream for it to be done in 12 seconds? Cut the man some slack. :) Just half as much slack as you've been giving gas cars all these years will do. ;)

Who would need to travel more than 350 miles if there is a hurricane. Do you think you're going to stop off and fill your gas tank while there's a hurricane bearing down? Talk about FUD. If it ever occurred, I'd fancy my chances with the acceleration of an electric.

Ken Heslip

It has been said before: "the electric vehicle is not for everybody. It can only meet the needs of 90 percent of the population." A reasonably organized person should not need the quick charge system only as an exception. The first automobilists bought their fuel at drug stores - that didn't make them say: "this is far to inconvenient - it'll never get hold, let's stick with horses!" Evac from hurricanes? That is by far the feeblest excuse I've ever read. You should have at least picked tornadoes, and absolutely everybody has a poor old granny living at least 800 miles away ... Slowburn I know, You're not stupid but You're trying very hard to give that impression. The era of sucking toxic fumes from exhaust pipes is slowly, but surely coming to an end. The best part of it being that we might both live to see it - me saying: I told you so!


Awesome! I bet after some more development the time will be cut in half. Gas cars are going down!


Wow, I am shocked at how negative the comments here are. Electric cars do have technical limitations yes but so do gasoline vehicles. I think this is a great step forward.

Jon Smith

As with Better Place, swapping out batteries will require a lot more resources go into making several batteries to support one car.


I didn't see a battery pack being removed and replaced. Did anyone else see it?


re; Niko

If you are evacuating from a hurricane approaching New Orleans it might be nice to be able to get out the track of the worst case scenario for your evacuation plan. Driving until you are out of power might make you safe from the storm but...

I grew up in the Denver metro area. One set of my grand parents lived on the other side of the mountains in Grand Junction, the other lived about hundred miles east of Grand Island Nebraska.

If the electrical storage system gets good enough that I can throw the equivalent of a few jerrycans of gas in the trunk to double my range, and the cost without receiving government subsidies becomes competitive I will welcome electric cars. Until then make the people that think they are a good idea pay their entire cost.

Currently ICE vehicles are not under threat from EVs. Just the people who would inflict EVs on others.


The idea that buying cans of gas from a drug store is less convenient than taking care of a horse is just stupid; a horse requires care even on days that you do not go anywhere.


The negative comments are normal with disruptive systems.

Imagine 90 seconds to add another 160 or 300 miles or charge for free? Pay about $80 for the swap and have the option to keep the battery pack and pay for the difference (remember it's a newer pack) or get your old one back. The one question I didn't ask at the event is whether or not it would be held back at the original swapping station. I assumed it would but it deserves a clearer answer.


Slowburn, to quote someone who is no doubt one of your favorite politicians, “there you go again”. I know it’s difficult to imagine people living somewhere other than in the Rocky Mountain West, but believe me, plenty of them do. As a resident of southeastern New Mexico, I know what long distance travel is all about. I also know what kind trash, oil industry flaks talk. Our local newspaper is loaded with it. Quit ignoring the huge amount of tax subsidies and infrastructure given away to the oil industry, or the fact that an entire political party is a wholly subsidiary of Big Oil. Yeah, okay, electric cars may not be perfectly suited to the manly adventures we westerners prefer, but your repeated slights of any concept that doesn’t involve using petrochemicals, is beginning to grow wearisome. The slow disappearance of the ICE will take longer than you or I have left on this planet, so why all these objections?


Mass produce & replicate for service stations nationwide & garages & parking centers IE malls, musuems, airports, bus ports, colleges alone

Stephen Russell

re; fleming

Pointing out that battery powered transportation is inferior does not constitute slights of any concept that doesn’t involve using petrochemicals.

Nor am I worried that EVs will make ICE powered vehicles disappear, that would require them to be superior.


Not being able to asses a problem holistically is either shortsighted or outright biased. Slowburn You may either confess that You don't understand the concept of sustainability or that this aberrated fixation on burning fossil fuel is in one way or another Your daily bread and butter. If ecology isn't Your strong suit - try physics. Ever heard of a dynamic equilibrium (hint: burning non renew-ables isn't one), embodied energy, C2C ... ?

(artificially) Cheap and convenient does not mean superior. If (and only if) EVERYTHING is taken into account an honest case can be made. By those standards EVs ever were and always will be superior to ICE powered anythings.


ICE does not mean oil or other fossil fuel. Nor is it necessarily the best option but it is better than stored electricity EV. There are some pre-EV smokeless engine designs that are real interesting but unless the EV subsidies are removed or at the very least modified to include other noncombustion prime movers a superior to ICE Prime mover will not be developed.

Sustainable means that our grandchildren will have to put up with the same lousy stuff we do and I am real glad that our ancestors decided on progress.


ICE does in 99.n % of all cases mean oil or other fossil fuel. For reasons already given it is not nearly the best option. We are all (or most of us) aware of the difference of stored energy density. But there is no physical law determining a known upper non viable electrical energy storage limit for batteries (of course there is some limit, but we're far from it).

"There are some pre-EV smokeless engine designs" By smokeless You mean without toxic fumes that are expelled into the environment? Name one please! "but unless the EV subsidies are removed" You go on and on with these imaginary subsidies. No I'll correct myself Infinitesimal subsidies - 'cause that's what they are in comparison to: "The International Energy Agency estimates that the phase-out of fossil fuel subsidies - which amount to more than $500 billion annually..." (would be a great idea) and I bet they haven't assessed so-called "externalized costs" to unrepairable environmental, social health and other damages.

"Sustainable means that our grandchildren will have to put up with the same lousy stuff we do" Sustainable means exactly the opposite: That we DON'T DO "lousy stuff" in the first place, so our grandchildren WON'T HAVE TO "put up with it"!

"and I am real glad that our ancestors decided on progress." You meant PROFIT regardless of any consequences. Hail to our wise ancestors!


re; Niko

EVs are a minute fraction of the total cars on the road as well. Plus they are an economic disaster. Farmland based biofuels are a disaster as well but waste stream based biofuel is practical. Given practical fossil free electrical generation synthesized methane, or ammonia works. You can go from electricity, water, and air to liquid fuel but I doubt it is worth the cost.

"By smokeless You mean without toxic fumes that are expelled into the environment? Name one please!" --- The were recharged by coal plants but so are a lot of EVs. Here is two Soda (Caustic Soda), and Ammonia Absorption. Pneumatic also predates ICE and if you harvest the heat generated by compression and the cold generated by expansion quite efficient. If you use a carbon fiber tank the energy storage system costs less than the equivalent batteries and has a longer life without loosing capacity with use.

EVs were golf carts and conversions until the subsidizes were offered. $500 billion annually sounds like a lot until you understand how much it is spread over. And yes discontinuing the subsidizes is a goodness thing.

It is hard to say whether learning to shape stone or learning to control fire was the first significant progress that humans made but you are using a computer so you must agree that progress is not all bad.

Post a Comment

Login with your Gizmag account:

Related Articles
Looking for something? Search our articles