Tesla patent reveals a mobile battery-swapping machine

Charging your Tesla may soon be as easy as swapping out the battery.

Tesla was recently awarded a patent for a machine that allows technicians to swap out battery packs completely, meaning owners could deplete one and insert a new fully charged one.

The system described in the filing, which was first spotted by Electrek, would make it possible for technicians to swap out Tesla vehicle battery packs in less that 15 minutes — making it feasible for Tesla owners to use a battery exchange rather than constantly having to charge up.

The machine would also reduce wait time for Tesla owners. The battery swap would theoretically take about half the time it takes to charge a battery fully using one of Tesla’s superchargers

The machine would be used to lift a car to a predetermined height, likely according to which model is being serviced, so that technicians can access the battery packs. The patent explicitly mentions the Model S and Model X, but other Tesla vehicles like the Model 3 would probably be compatible with the system, too.  

Image: uspto

Despite the huge upside for Tesla owners, the machine looks most promising for Tesla’s upcoming semi-truck, which is scheduled to be unveiled in October. We don’t know many details about the new rig, but that hasn’t stopped some experts from making detailed predictions. In our assessment, the commercial applications of the truck make it a more likely candidate for battery swaps, since the companies that buy the semis could lease the batteries separately. 

This, of course, is all speculation based off a patent though, so we can’t say for sure whether Tesla is actually building the system or whether it plans to use it in the near future.

It wouldn’t be the first time Telsa has experimented with battery swapping. The automaker filed a similar patent last year — but the machine described in the recent filing would be more compact and more mobile, as the patent mentions the potential for custom-built trailers to move it from place to place.  

But the most impressive battery swapping system we’ve seen yet from Tesla was actually built by the company. Elon Musk showed off a method that enabled an automated, 90-second Model S battery switch in an onstage demo in 2013

Tesla ultimately put the quick swap system on the back burner to focus on developing its Supercharger network for consumers. With a commercial-facing semi-truck coming soon, though, battery swapping could become a focus for the automaker again. 

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