Electric Vehicle Range – Problem Solved

Chris Carnevale | September 13, 2013 | Clean Transportation, Electric Vehicles, Energy Policy

This blog is part of a series on electric vehicles. Other blogs in this series include: “Ecotality Blinks Out, But EVs Still Going” and more yet to come. Please also help us spread the word about the benefits and future opportunities for electric vehicles on National Plug In Day, Sept. 28-29. Plug In 2013 Conference is also being held this month in San Diego on Sept. 30 – Oct. 3.

CSC Tesla Model S
Here I am behind the wheel of a Tesla Model S. Thanks to Coastal Conservation League and Plug In Carolina for hosting the event and to Richard Williams and the Lowcountry Plugin Drivers for letting me behind the wheel. I got to test drive this car later and it was wonderful.

Tesla Motor Company is one of my favorite companies in operation today.  Why?  Because they are just plain awesome.

Tesla has unveiled a technology that should cure EV-range anxiety from even the staunchest of electric vehicle critics.

They have developed a robotic arm battery-swapping system that completely changes a depleted battery with a fully-charged battery in just over a minute and a half.  To show how quick and painless this is to EV-critics, they hosted an event earlier this summer at which they timed how long it took to do a battery swap (on stage at the event) versus fill up a gas tank (with a live video feed from someone at a gas station).

The filling station took about 4 minutes to fill a large gas tank.  In that same time, the battery pack swapper took care of not one, but TWO Teslas.  See the video below to watch the action.

Tesla SuperchargerThis swapping system is planned to be installed later this year at some of Tesla’s solar-powered Supercharger stations in California and the Northeast.  Though it will cost $60 – $80 for a battery swap (for comparison, keep in mind how much is would cost to fill up a gas tank in a regular car).  Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, explains that by positioning battery swappers at the Supercharger stations, as a Tesla driver, the only decision you have to make is “between faster [battery swap faster than filling a gas tank] and free [free 30-minute supercharge].”

So there you have it.  The future of vehicle transport is upon us.  While EV battery-swapping company, Better Place, may not have survived past its startup phase, it may have pioneered a bright future for the battery swapping concept.  There is much more EV charging infrastructure already deployed than most people think, such that even long road trips are possible in some places (see our blog posts on a holiday EV-roadtrip here: part 1, part 2, and part 3).  But in years to come as battery-swapping and electric vehicle charging infrastructure continues to be deployed throughout the country, range anxiety may very well become a thing of the past.

While this technology is currently limited to exactly one make of car–the Tesla Model S–the concept could be blazing the trail for a brand new way we think about refueling and could provide significant benefits for renewable energy electricity storage in vehicle batteries down the road.

Chris Carnevale
Chris is SACE’s Climate Advocacy Director. Chris joined the SACE staff in 2011 to help with building public understanding and engagement around clean energy solutions to the climate crisis. Chris…
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