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Tesla has designed its second electric car, the Model S, to have a battery that can be quickly taken out and swapped with a new one, with the idea that if battery swapping becomes common for electric car drivers one day, the Model S will be prepared, explained Tesla CTO JB Straubel at a tour of Tesla’s Model S Alpha Build room on Thursday. Think of it as Tesla hedging its bets on whether battery swapping will become popular one day or not.
Companies like Better Place and Renault-Nissan have been early at investing in the infrastructure of battery swapping stations, where one day electric car drivers could go to swap out their used batteries for new ones in the event they want to drive beyond their battery range.
Tesla isn’t yet investing in the infrastructure of battery swapping, confirmed Straubel, and Tesla has not made any announcements about partnering with EV battery swapping infrastructure company Better Place. How fast battery swapping infrastructure will develop “is a bit of an open question.” said Straubel.
There wasn’t a quick, easy way to get the battery out in a Roadster, even if there was available swapping infrastructure, so with the Model S, Tesla wanted it to be a possibility if one day swapping develops, explained Straubel. Making the battery swappable also makes it easier to install on the manufacturing line, he added.
On the other hand, Tesla is investing a bit in the infrastructure of fast charging, which could be a good indicator of just how important Tesla thinks battery swapping will ultimately be.