It’s an unsubstantiated rumor, but the Harris Ranch Tesla Supercharger site in the Central Valley (off I-5 between San Francisco and Los Angeles) may be getting the first one in the “modern” era. Here’s an eyewitness account:
While charging at Harris Ranch on the way back from the shareholder meeting I was chatting with the employees at Subway inside the Shell gas station market, I was told by someone (not a Subway employee) who works there that Tesla is putting in the battery swap station where the car wash is currently located, I guess the car wash is broken & they don’t want to get it fixed so they struck a deal with Tesla & plans have been drawn up to build the station where the car wash is currently, best guess is should be open in about 6 months or so & will be manned with Tesla personal for awhile until they get the kinks worked out, several times Elon has mentioned the first station will be on the I-5 & this area is perfect.
We know that Tesla batteries can be swapped faster than it takes to get gas. If you could “refill” your Tesla battery for another 250 miles or so in just a minute or two by swapping in a fresh one, it would solve the range anxiety/charging time issue completely.
There are really no technical barriers to pulling this off, but in practice it can be complicated. The battery is the most expensive part of the vehicle (tens of thousands of dollars in a car like the Tesla). So if you just drop the battery off for a new one every time you’re out and about, who is going to own it? And how are you going to know the quality of the new battery you’re receiving? And how will it affect the purchase price of the vehicle?
The EV charging company “Better Place” introduced this battery swapping business charging model a few years back, but the company got crushed. Bottom line is that the automakers didn’t want to give up possession of the battery ownership for a swapping model.
But given Tesla’s ambitions to be an energy storage company as much as a car company, it may make sense for them to retain ownership of the batteries. It solves the range and potentially the cost issues of the cars, and it also gives Tesla an opportunity to flip the batteries for energy storage whenever they need to.
If the Harris Ranch swap station is happening, it’s likely a pilot project for the company to evaluate. But it could portend a new era in how electric vehicles are engineered, operated, sold, and — most importantly — experienced by drivers.