As Tesla Motors continues to focus on expanding its Supercharger network, it appears that the automaker’s plans to implement quick battery swaps at the charging stations are being pushed to the back burner. Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk famously said about the battery swaps compared to charging:
“The only decision that you have to make when you come to one of our Tesla stations is do you prefer faster or free,”
Now, The Verge reports that during Tesla’s recent shareholder meeting, Musk responded with the following to a question regarding the battery swaps:
We have the LA-to-San Francisco pack swap capability in place, and I believe all Model S owners in the California area have been invited at this point to try it out. And what we’re seeing is a very low take rate for the pack swap station. So we did an initial round of invitations, where we did basically like 200 invitations, and I think there were a total of four or five people that wanted to do that, and they all did it just once. So, okay, it’s clearly not very popular. And then we said, okay, let’s expand that invitation to all customers, but I would expect that all customers roughly behave like that initial sample group.
It’s just, people don’t care about pack swap. The Superchargers are fast enough that if you’re driving from LA to San Francisco, and you start a trip at 9AM, by the time you get to, say, noon, you want to stop, and you want to stretch your legs, hit the restroom, grab a bite to eat, grab a coffee, and be on your way, and by that time, the car is charged and ready to go, and it’s free. So, it’s like, why would you do the pack swap? It doesn’t make much sense.
We built the pack swap into the car because we weren’t sure if people would want to choose the pack swap or not. We thought people would prefer Supercharging, but we weren’t sure, so that’s why we built the pack swap capability in. And based on what we’re seeing here, it’s unlikely to be something that’s worth expanding in the future, unless something changes.
For the Superchargers, as we said in the initial press release, the Superchargers are free. It’s basically free long distance for life, forever. So free long distance forever is what the Superchargers are providing. Now, there are a few people who are quite aggressively using it for local Supercharging, and we will sort of send them just a reminder note that it’s cool to do this occasionally, but it’s meant to be a long-distance thing. But it is free long distance forever, and it’s basically built into the cost of the car. And based on what we’re seeing in terms of the economics, it looks quite supportable.