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The 90-Second Tesla Battery Swap: Misleading and Far From 'Magic'

Tesla-Model-S-battery-swap-video-thumb-598xauto-7111 Not so fast, Tesla.

In an attempt to woo potential customers, Tesla is pulling out the stops. Earlier this month they released plans to beef up their supercharger network. Last week, Tesla unveiled its newest gimmick to get people into its electric cars: 90 second battery swaps.

Tesla is attempting to outmaneuver gas-powered cars and their fuel fill-ups via the release of a video pitting the new “battery swap” against a “gasoline fill up.” This video shows a Tesla employee filling up a car at the gas pump — while an automated machine swaps two batteries out of two different Tesla Model S’s in the same amount of time.

Problem #1, what some of these subsequent reports on the “battery swap” miracle won’t tell you or, what people don't realize,  is that the car used for the “gasoline” part of the race is an Audi A8 — which has an unusually large gas tank of 23.8 gallons. That’s the same fuel-tank capacity as the Hummer H3. Yeah, not really a fair fight.

Most gas tanks for a mid-size sedan are around 15-17 gallons. (The Toyota Camry is on the high end with a 17 gallon capacity tank.)

Problem #2, the cost to swap the battery will be around $50. This price looks awfully nice compared to the $99.83 price tag to fill up the tank-like Audi A8. They also did this race at a Los Angeles gas station… Oh, and the Audi takes Premium gasoline — further inflating the cost difference in this comparison.

An Exxon station two blocks from the D.C. Capitol (2nd St NE and Mass Ave) is currently selling premium gas for $4.59/gal. In a Toyota Camry with a 17 gallon gas tank, a COMPLETE fill up with Premium would be $78.03. Also, Camrys don’t take Premium like the Audi A8 — they're fine with regular.

Let’s try a gas station in my hometown for giggles. To fill up a Camry with Premium gasoline would cost $65.79. If the driver were to use regular, like they should, the price would be $60.69.