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Tesla will demo its battery swap technology for the Model S

Tesla will be demonstrating its battery swap technology this week in hopes of successfully launching an alternative to electric vehicle (EV) charging. 

Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced via Twitter that the automaker will show off swappable batteries at its design studio in Hawthorne, California this Thursday evening at 8 p.m. PST.

The idea behind battery swapping is to easily open the car chassis to pull the battry out and replace it with a fully-charged one. This saves the driver from having to wait for their battery to charge before traveling -- especially on a road trip that's longer than the available electric range of their battery.

This technology hasn't really taken off yet (although it was attempted before by Better Place and automaker Renault). The main issue is infrastructure, mainly because it's so expensive to deploy. But with Tesla's ever-increasing number of Super Charger stations, adding a battery swap service to these areas could be an ideal solution.

Tesla's Model S is capable of battery swap, but it hasn't really been implemented yet. Tesla is looking to change that this Thursday. 

Tesla has proved to be the superhero of the American electric car startup world. It was approved to receive a $465 million loan from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in June 2009, which was part of the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program. The loan was to be repaid by 2022, but in March of this year, Tesla received permission to pay the loan back five years early by mid-2017. 

However,  Tesla managed to repay the whole sum last month -- nine years earlier than expected from the original 2022 due date. This was mainly due to its decision to issue more stock the week before. Tesla said it wanted to sell about $830 million in shares, and use $450 million in convertible senior notes (which are due in 2018) along with sales of 2.7 million shares (valued at about $229 million at the time) to pay back its federal loan.

This is an especially crucial detail in Tesla's history, considering other plug-in hybrid electric automaker Fisker Automotive (which also received a DOE loan) has failed miserably

Before that, Tesla started shipping 500 Model S sedans per week starting in March of this year, exceeding the sales outlook of 4,500 posted in the February shareholder letter. In fact, Tesla managed to sell 4,900 Model S sedans in the first quarter. The automaker plans to deliver 21,000 total for the year, which slightly exceeds previous forecasts of about 20,000. 

For Q1 2013, Tesla reported a net income of $11.2 million (a huge increase from an $89.9 million loss in the year-ago quarter). Excluding certain items, Tesla's profit came in at 12 cents a share, which was a boost from a loss of 76 cents a share in Q1 2012. Analysts expected a profit of about 4 cents a share. Revenue also saw a huge year-over-year boost, totaling $562 million (up from $30.2 million in the year-ago quarter). 

For those who can't make it to Tesla's California studio this week, don't fret -- Tesla will post a video of the demo on Twitter that night. 

Source: Giga Om

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RE: Big deal
By corduroygt on 6/18/2013 12:11:28 PM , Rating: 4
Nice points, but I believe some improvements can be made/overlooked some things.

1. 400lb battery doesn't mean it's huge. Here's the model S battery: 100 of these aren't going to take up that much space. 5 stacks of 20 batteries are easily manageable in a medium sized gas station.

2. You could automate a lot of the battery replacement process. Think of a similar setup to an oil changing bay, where the battery is automatically placed on a conveyor belt from the stack and the old battery is automatically carried to the stack for recharging. You could cut the replacement time to 10 minutes or less.

3. The only big issue is you'll need some serious industrial grade juice to charge up 100 batteries.

RE: Big deal
By TSS on 6/19/2013 9:55:55 AM , Rating: 2
3. isn't an issue as the station can charge the batteries slowly at night. if you go through 100 batteries a day and have 100 fully charged batteries by the start of the day, your next 100 batteries can take a full day to charge instead of needing to charge right away. This'll probably reduce the number of batteries needed if you can charge a battery in say, ~8 hours, meaning the batteries from the morning rush are charged again by the evening rush you'd need only 50 batteries (as the other 50 are the ones you took out in the morning and charged before the afternoon). And the powerdraw would still be smaller then the 1 hour at home charge, 8 times smaller infact.

As another poster said ownership is a big problem but on the other hand, that's only with the current way of doing things. If tesla's smart, they won't actually start doing battery swaps until a new model. Then, simply never have the client "own" the batteries anyway.

Meaning the client doesn't own the batteries, just the rest of the car, while tesla continues ownership of the batteries. Maybe offer a leasing contract with it or something. Then if the batteries are swapped out, doesn't matter, the other pack is owned by tesla as well. If something fails, not your problem, you simply call up tesla, they swap it out for a new one which you don't own either. Wanna sell the car? The contract simply transfers to the new owner.

It would have a nice side effect of dropping the price of the car like a brick, while tesla is best suited to recuperate any cost from failed batteries or whatnot. If a pack dies on the consumer outside of the guarrantee they'd just throw it away, or have to spend alot of money on technicians tesla already has to repair it, or spend alot of money on buying a new pack on which tesla will make minimal profit anyway.

The only problem that remains then is the total amount of juice. Remember, if electric cars are starting to make too much sense, people *will* buy them. This means that yet another xx kilowatts of electricity need to be generated every so often. The grid will need to be able to handle said kilowatts.

just as a very quick calculation, there are 250 million passenger cars in the US. If all of those would carry a 80 kw/h battery pack, that's 20 billion kw/h that would need to be charged each day. The average nuclear reactor in the US produces 12,2 billion kw/h a year. So you'd need about 585 nuclear reactors more to power the US passenger car fleet (not every car needs to be charged daily but this also assumes perfect 24h charge coverage so it'll cancel eachother out).

At $6-$9 billion dollars per plant that'd be $3,5-$5,3 trillion dollars. Just to make sure all passenger cars in the US can charge. So that doesn't include extra batteries for swapping or trucks used for transportation. Doesn't include upgrades to the grid because in no way can the grid handle that load right now. ~$5 trillion just to get the power generated at all.

Sorry to put a political message in here (though the subject is about as political as they come anyway), but the US deficit since obama went from $10,6 trillion to $16,4 trillion. Just wanted to point out that even this insane calculation could've be funded ~120% with the money the US already spent in 6(!) years.

RE: Big deal
By BRB29 on 6/19/2013 10:46:49 AM , Rating: 2
Your estimates are off. With our current grid, we can actually handle a few million EVs before needing an upgrade. The NRC also is constantly building new plants. It's not sitting at a stand still.

When EVs reach volumes of millions of vehicles, our grid can probably handle 10s of millions by then. The US does not take the energy lightly. We are very proactive with our grids and have massive antiterrorism plans in place along with contingency and back up plans.

Autonomous vehicles, mass transit systems, EVs, smart grid distribution are all part of the future plans. The only thing holding everything back guessed it...politicians.

RE: Big deal
By m51 on 6/19/2013 1:28:24 PM , Rating: 2
Your numbers are off.
12.2 billion kw-hours per year is the average per power plant, not per reactor. Many plants have multiple reactors.
A better estimate would be 9 billion kwh per year for a modern reactor (eg AP1000), or 24 million kwh per day.

The energy need per day would be the number of cars involved in commutes and the avg energy used per commute. This is much less than your estimate.

Avg. round trip commute is 32 miles, energy consumption is 0.25 kwh per mi. so 8Kwh per commute, and around 115 million commuters per day creates a need for 920 million kwh per day. That equates to only around 38 modern reactors.

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