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Has Tesla Made a Big Breakthrough?

Tesla Motors (NASDAQ: TSLA  ) has had plenty of news lately, but the next big story might be a very big one: CEO Elon Musk has been hinting that there's a way for Tesla's Model S sedan to be recharged very quickly -- and now, there's a demonstration of some kind set for next week.

Has Tesla really come up with a recharging breakthrough? In this video, contributor John Rosevear looks at the latest upgrades to Tesla's Supercharger network, and explains why fast recharging would be a huge deal -- not just for Tesla and its profits, but for the idea of electric cars in general.

Tesla's plan to disrupt the global auto business has yielded spectacular results. But giant competitors are already moving to disrupt Tesla. Will the company be able to fend them off? The Motley Fool answers this question and more in our most in-depth Tesla research available. Get instant access by clicking here now.

Read/Post Comments (20) | Recommend This Article (8)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On June 13, 2013, at 7:51 PM, mwbrown42 wrote:

    It's a battery swap, like Better Place. It's the only thing that can work in that short of a period of time. I confirmed this with a Tesla rep at the San Luis Obispo Concours car show last weekend. THey will roll out the infrastructure to do it over the next couple of years, same thing they're doing for the supercharger network.

  • Report this Comment On June 13, 2013, at 8:33 PM, Petronilus wrote:

    Agree, such rapid recharging will be burn wires and make the batteries overheat. Even at 240 Volts, 85kWh (max Model S battery) in 1 minute would mean 5.1MW of output or 21 thousand Amps. That's a burst of power equivalent to a small town. And, if the battery is connected to the grid in the station, it could easily help pay itself back by providing backup power to the grid during peak loads...Elon must have thought about that.

    Swapping battery is the only way to beat the gas station timing.

  • Report this Comment On June 13, 2013, at 8:55 PM, PreviouslyParks wrote:

    Good luck to Tesla, but unless he has government approval behind him, they and the petroleum companies who run the World will not allow it to happen.

    It's been tried, and successfully too, many times in the past - mixing water to burn with fuel through the original carburetors for example; each time the inventor is bought out by the petroleum companies and nothing is heard of it again, or in the case of a recent U.S. inventor who refused to sell out to the petroleum companies, mysteriously died on the road before he could implement his breakthrough ideas.

    We are all controlled in this way and the lie is different at every level.

  • Report this Comment On June 13, 2013, at 9:11 PM, SteveTG3 wrote:

    John, it will be very interesting to see the demonstration. There have been some pretty solid clues that it is battery swapping.

    point of clarification... while still not as fast as a gas fillup the SuperChargers are currently rolling out an upgrade better than the half charge in 30 minutes when SCs launched in the fall. Tesla now describes it as 2/3 charge in 20 minutes (part of announcement last month). I believe a full charge is about 35 minutes now.

  • Report this Comment On June 13, 2013, at 9:15 PM, Badassbroli wrote:

    It's real it's easy and it is brilliant technology. The tech is not in the charging station or even the battery . It is in the anodes. They are Lithium titanate. The first car to ever use Altaire Nano's Battery systems were the British car company(although the inventor is american) that makes the Electric Super Car,"The Lightning". They claim a full 300 mile charge in 20-30 minutes but I spoke with their engineers last week and they said that they are down to 6 minutes on a similar charge. It works by eliminating all resistance to the charge in the anodes. Iys the difference microscopically of say, the butter lost on and english muffin is more than rides the surface. lithium Titanate is like a pita where no butter is lost from the surface where the surface butter is the electrical charge and the nooks and crannies delay the charge significantly.

  • Report this Comment On June 13, 2013, at 11:43 PM, emailnodata wrote:

    Please, please, please quit the "disruptive' jargon.

    Look, everyone gets enough of playing bullsh#t bingo every day at work.....we don't need it in our business articles.

    Excuse me while I "kick the can down the road".

  • Report this Comment On June 13, 2013, at 11:51 PM, emailnodata wrote:

    Fast charging is a function of 2 things:

    available electrical power, and connectivity.

    If each battery cell is charged individually, simultaneously....this assumes the Tesla battery is a combination of many cells.

  • Report this Comment On June 13, 2013, at 11:58 PM, Grumpycat wrote:

    Battery Swapping?

    You've gotta be kidding!

    You're going to swap a $10,000 battery at every charging station? How much do they weigh?

  • Report this Comment On June 14, 2013, at 5:23 AM, scottford62 wrote:

    Tesla is the biggest ponzie scheme going on right now. How many cars have rolled out there doors this month, last month, how many cars have they built. And how many are on the road with no problems.If you own stock sell it now. A goverment backed loan just went bad, for a company doing battery swapping.

  • Report this Comment On June 14, 2013, at 5:55 AM, TMFMarlowe wrote:

    @SteveTG3 (or any other Model S owner who happens by): I was under the impression that swapping the battery pack out of a Model S was kind of a pain -- not that it was major surgery, but that it was a not-so-simple procedure that involved some disassembly, an hour or two of work in a shop. But I could be misremembering -- am I? Is it something that could be done quickly by one or two trained people?

    Thanks to all for watching.

    John Rosevear

  • Report this Comment On June 14, 2013, at 6:09 AM, TMFMarlowe wrote:

    @scottford62: To answer your questions... about 1600, about 1600, 2500 Roadsters and about 11,000 Model S, most of them. Tesla paid off its government-backed loan, done deal.

    I think you mean "Fonzie scheme": Some folks just find Teslas (and Tesla stock) too cool to resist.

    John Rosevear

  • Report this Comment On June 14, 2013, at 8:21 AM, JRP3 wrote:

    It's going to be a swap. Elon has said a number of times that they designed the pack to be quickly changed out, and since it has to be quickly installed during manufacturing it's not hard to figure out how they do it. I think two people with torque wrenches and a lift could do it in about two minutes without an expensive automated machines. Quick connects on the cooling lines and the electrical connections. I'm predicting that this will be done at the service centers, which will have the staff and equipment.

  • Report this Comment On June 14, 2013, at 9:32 AM, galevin1 wrote:

    Check out how Kandi (KNDI) does this on their Chinese cars. There is a video online that shows 2 massive robots on either side of the car in which one removes the battery from underneath one side of the car while the other inserts the battery underneath on the other side. The video shows this being done in about one minute. Awesome technology. I'm assuming TSLA will be doing the same.

  • Report this Comment On June 14, 2013, at 11:32 AM, SteveTG3 wrote:


    Yes, the battery was designed to swap out and be replaced under 5 minutes.

    Over the years, Elon and at least one other person in a key leadership position at Tesla have publicly said the battery can be swapped faster than filling a gas tank.

    Now that very same language shows up in the tweet hints about the 6/20 announcement. That is one of several clues that have me 90+% sure the announcement next week will demonstrate a battery swap. It may be that they demonstrate but at this point limit rollout to a couple of locations near HQ in California. There's also a small chance that what they show with swapping is something different than simply swapping out existing battery pack for a fully charged duplicate, but that's getting into murkier areas, far more speculative. We'll know a week from now.

    fwiw, I almost stretched and pulled the trigger on a Model S in March. Just too much of a reach for me, so for now the plan is an X or Gen3.

  • Report this Comment On June 14, 2013, at 12:11 PM, jamesdan567 wrote:

    A battery swap sounds great but at a $300 a kwh wholesale, and 3 per station and 200 stations, you have to protect and manage $150 million in batteries that are lying around waiting to be swapped by an attendant who is just sitting on his heels waiting most of the time. Its not elegant or pretty solution.

    I think he and Panasonic have figured an economical way to carbonize the cathode, which can bring charging times down to 5 minutes for 85kwh.

    Something like this: " researchers’ paper, “Carbon-Coated Single-Crystal LiMn2O4 Nanoparticle Clusters as Cathode Material for High-Energy and High-Power Lithium-Ion Batteries,” was published earlier this month in Angewandte Chemie." (Aug 2012)

    Read more at:

  • Report this Comment On June 14, 2013, at 3:53 PM, SteveTG3 wrote:

    James that was an intriguing article. would be great if they get this some day. cells in the article are not the cell in the current battery packs, however, so I can't see it can being the 6/20 announcement.

    there has been very heavy hinting it is swapping. I've since seen reasonable scenarios of how this can work significantly better than what seems possible on the surface. Moreover, I don't doubt that Tesla's team has come up with a plan better than me and my fellow swapping speculators. it's only a week away, so no reason to get rehash all the arguments.

  • Report this Comment On June 14, 2013, at 6:42 PM, yusra wrote:

    Agree with emailnodata . Battery swap is out of question. Too complicated and immensely capital and human intensive. Imagine, storing hundreds of charged batteries at each station, the wear and tear the car would have to go through each and everytime, plus there would be very few people using the supercharging network on a regular basis, if I have to use it once or twice a year, I would not want to swap my brand new battery with a one that who knows how it has been used. Plus that would entail total redesign of the supercharging network at a tremendous cost.

    I believe the demo on June 20th will be a glimpse into the future of supercharging and will not apply to the current model S. It will likely involve rewiring of the Panasonic cells such that each cell may be individually wired in a such a fashion that for the charging mode it would electrically split into two or more smaller units thus allowing a very rapid charge as the battery mass per connection will be greatly reduced.I hope the June 20th demo is not about battery swapping as it would likely send the

    stock plummeting.

  • Report this Comment On June 15, 2013, at 12:33 AM, jamesdan567 wrote:

    Thanks for the comment. Managing the swap is do-able. even with weather issues etc. However, consider the overview: A battery swap is completely about going around the problem of slow charging. That, in my opinion, is not Elon Musk's style. I believe Elon wants to face problems head on and solve them. I think he'd be uncomfortable doing a battery swap if only because that's how Detroit would do it.

    Past management comments about swaps could be true, or total misdirection. At either end, I think the announcement Thursday will have significant elements unconsidered by the market. In fact, I'd say a battery swap would be disappointing and would cost the stock some value. We will see. In either event my money will ride on with Elon at the reigns.

  • Report this Comment On June 15, 2013, at 12:36 AM, jamesdan567 wrote:

    also, a battery swap strikes me as like getting an oil change every time you get gas! Also, it seems only 50/50 it would apply to 2013 S models to me...

  • Report this Comment On June 17, 2013, at 2:23 AM, Jackl1956 wrote:

    It's not a faster horse, Henry.

    The battery can be RECHARGED, not swapped in less time to fill a gas tank.

    If we recharge at home EVERY night, SUPERCHARGING to 80% is a game changer.

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