Electric car magnate Elon Musk announced Tesla’s battery-swap program last year, which would allow Model S owners to change out depleted battery packs for fresh ones quickly. According to the company, the switch could be done in just 90 seconds — less time than it takes an Audi A6 to fully refuel.
To test the procedure, the brand set up a pilot program in Harris Ranch, California. Tesla invited some 200 clients to enjoy the swapping service, but it didn’t go as planned. Only a handful of customers ever utilized the resource.
One reason could be that the changeover time exceeded 180 seconds in practical form, but that’s probably not the case. More likely is that the availability of high-speed Superchargers across the U.S. makes the system somewhat redundant, a statement that was echoed by Musk at a recent shareholder meeting.
As quoted by The Verge, Musk said: “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 a.m, 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.”
While it’s not an official condemnation, Musk’s comments likely mean that battery swapping won’t receive major financial support anytime soon. However, there are others factors that could have played into the pilot program’s uninspired reaction.
The first and most obvious is that the switch could only be done by appointment, which added a step to the refueling process that simply wasn’t there before. Moreover, the sample size around Harris Ranch was quite small, so the numbers Tesla received may not be indicative of nationwide interest.
Regardless of those circumstances, free, fast, and nationwide Supercharging is hard to argue with. We’ll keep you updated as the story develops.