Tesla's battery swapping plan is a mere shadow of the promise it once showed

In 2013, Elon Musk showed off Tesla’s battery swapping technology, which can remove and replace the drained battery pack of a Model S with a fully charged one in just 90 seconds.

Two years later, it looks like Tesla’s battery swapping plan isn’t quite working out.

At the company’s recent shareholder meeting, Musk told investors that few Tesla owners have used the company’s swapping station at Harris Ranch, California, located between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

“We’ve invited all the Model S owners in the area to try it out, and of the first round of 200 invitations, only four or five people were interested,” Musk said at the meeting. “Clearly it’s not very popular.”

An independant survey of 145 Tesla owners conducted by Jefferies, support Tesla’s findings.

According to Jefferies auto analyst Dan Dolev and his team, the majority of respondents (54%) said that they weren’t interested in the battery swap technology.

Dolev believes this lukewarm reception to battery swapping signals the development of a faster charging option is a more “compelling solution” for consumers.

Musk believes that Tesla’s vastly improved Supercharger stations could also contribute to consumer’s disinterest in battery swapping. Plugged into a Supercharger, a Model S battery can be charged to 80% capacity in just 40 minutes free of charge. On the other hand, a battery swap is by appointment only and could cost the driver between $US60-$US80.

“The Superchargers are fast enough,” Musk told investors. “If you start a trip from LA to San Francisco at 9:00am, by noon you want to stop, stretch your legs and get something eat, by the time you are done with that the car is charged and ready to go.”

“Why would you do the pack swap?” the Tesla CEO said. “It doesn’t make much sense.”

According to Musk, the battery swap technology was developed as a secondary option in case people were interested in the technology as an alternative to the Supercharger. Based on the reception the battery swap program has received since its inception, the tech mogul conceded that it’s unlikely Tesla will be expanding it in near future.

The current state of Tesla’s battery swapping program is but a mere shadow of the high-profile feature many thought it would be upon its debut. At the time, Tesla’s ability to swap battery packs was considered to be a breakthrough. The company succeeded where numerous others have failed.

Musk even presided over a glamorous presentation that showed a Model S having its battery pack replaced live on stage quicker than the time it takes to refuel an Audi sedan.

Dolev initiated coverage of Tesla in May with a “buy” rating price target of $US350. He’s since raised that to $US360.

On Friday, Tesla shares closed at $US267, down slightly.

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