Despite at least one skeptic calling the Tesla Model S battery swap program the "Hoax of the Year" for 2013, the first real-life beta tests for the long-awaited technology are now available to Model S drivers on the road between San Francisco and Los Angeles, CA. Earlier today, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted, "Pack swap now operating in limited beta mode for SF to LA route. Can swap battery faster than visiting a gas station. Tesla blog out soon." [UPDATE: It's now available here and below.] Looks like that promise he made in October has been kept. Musk says that when you need to fill up your Model S at a Supercharger station with a battery swap station, "The only decision you need to make when you come to one of our Tesla stations is do you prefer faster or free?"

We've known almost since we first learned about the Model S that it was designed with battery swapping in mind and, as previewed in June 2013, getting a fully charged battery pack swapped into your Model S from the special robots takes just a few minutes. While a sub-30 minute Supercharger charging session remains free, there is a cost associated with getting a new pack. How much is still undisclosed, officially, but it was previously predicted to be about the same as about 15 gallons of gas. At the time, that was around $60.

Further expansion details for new battery swap stations and when the beta tag will be removed have not yet been announced.
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Battery Swap Pilot Program
By The Tesla Motors Team

At an event in Los Angeles last year, we showcased battery swap technology to demonstrate that it's possible to replace a Model S battery in less time than it takes to fill a gas tank. This technology allows Model S owners in need of a battery charge the choice of either fast or free. The free long distance travel option is already well covered by our growing Supercharger network, which is now at 312 stations with more than 1,748 Superchargers worldwide. They allow Model S drivers to charge at 400 miles per hour. Now we're starting exploratory work on the fast option.

Starting next week, we will pilot a pack swap program with invited Model S owners. They will be given the opportunity to swap their car's battery at a custom-built facility located across the street from the Tesla Superchargers at Harris Ranch, CA. This pilot program is intended to test technology and assess demand.

At least initially, battery swap will be available by appointment and will cost slightly less than a full tank of gasoline for a premium sedan. More time is needed to remove the titanium and hardened aluminum ballistic plates that now shield the battery pack, so the swap process takes approximately three minutes.

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. Tesla will evaluate relative demand from customers for paid pack swap versus free charging to assess whether it merits the engineering resources and investment necessary for that upgrade.


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