Tesla drivers on the go, rejoice: Model S owners invited into pilot battery swap program

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Tesla battery swap rendering from Car and Driver

In June 2013, Tesla revealed it was capable of swapping out battery packs on the Model S in 90 seconds – less time than it took an Audi A6 to fully refuel, as Tesla was happy to demonstrate.

While it was a great attention grabber, the stunt didn’t lead to much in the way of actual battery swap programs to the chagrin of on-the-go owners.

That is, until now.

Tesla officially announced it is beginning a pilot battery swap program in California for a few invited owners.

The upstart EV maker has constructed a bespoke battery swap facility across from its supercharger stations in Harris Ranch, CA. There, owners will be able to pull in and – for less than “slightly less than a full tank of gasoline for a premium sedan” — will be able to get a new, fully recharged battery pack, according to Tesla.

The original demo touted a 90-second swap time. That lightning-fast exchange time has ballooned to over three minutes in actuality, however, as “more time is needed to remove the titanium and hardened aluminum ballistic plates that now shield the battery pack.”

Tesla is quick to add the caveat, “with further automation and refinements on the vehicle side, we are confident that the swap time could be reduced to less than one minute, even with shields.”

As I see it, this is an important first step for the automaker into attracting a new realm of potential buyers. Anecdotally, most people are interested in EVs, specifically Tesla.

They, however, are turned off to the idea of having to charge their car for more than the few minutes it takes to refuel their gas-powered car. Even with 312 Tesla Superchargers in the U.S., which can recharge at a rate of 400 miles per hour, consumers are reticent.

Moving the still-fledgling powertrain technology closer to the known comfort zone for many buyers will likely be the push they need to get into an emissions-free car. Now, if Tesla can just build tens of thousands of these swap facilities around the country – and world – we’ll be set.

(Photo credit: Car and Driver)