Tesla has confirmed that it will begin real world testing of its battery-swapping technology next week at one facility in California.
At the moment, access to the battery-swap technology is only being offered to a select number of Model S owners and battery swaps are available strictly by prior appointment.
Unlike the Supercharger network, which allows Model S owners to quickly recharge their cars for free (provided they’ve opted for the mid- or top-end Model S variants), fast battery pack swaps will incur a fee. Tesla has yet to go on the record with an exact dollar figure, but says that it “will cost slightly less than a full tank of gasoline for a premium sedan”.
With prices for premium petrol in California averaging around US$3 per gallon ($0.97 per litre), the 70L tank of a BMW 5 Series would cost around US$55 ($67.90) to fill.
The company’s experimental battery-swap facility will be located across the road from the Supercharger facility in Harris Ranch, California. Harris Ranch is a small town right next to Interstate 5 and about half way, or around 300km, between San Francisco and Los Angeles.
The company first demonstrated its battery-swap technology at an event in August 2013. At that made-for-media show, a battery swap took just over 90 seconds to complete.
Thanks to the aluminium and titanium plating that the company made standard on all its Model S vehicles after a series of car fire controversies, Tesla now says the battery swapping process takes around three minutes to complete, as those plates need to be removed and reinstalled for every battery swap.
In time the company hopes to reduce battery swapping time down to around a minute.
Tesla isn’t the first company to bring battery-swap systems to the market. The Renault Fluence ZE (in conglomeration with defunct energy infrastructure company Better Place) was offered with the option of the swap technology in some markets such as Denmark and Israel, where battery-swap stations were established. However, that ill-fated project is now over, and production of the Fluence electric sedan is over.