Tesla electric car owners do not care about instantly swapping their empty batteries for fully charged ones, and would rather let their cars recharge, Elon Musk has admitted.
Announced two years ago, Tesla planned to install the $500,000 (£320,000) battery swapping stations along busy routes in the US. So far, just one has opened, between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and despite the service taking just 90 seconds - quicker than filling a regular car with petrol - just a handful of owners have used it.
During a meeting with shareholders, Musk said that all Tesla owners close to the one battery swapping station have been invited to use it, but despite handing out 200 invitations, just "a total of four or five people...wanted to do that, and they all did it just once. So, okay, it's clearly not very popular."
Musk said he expects all Tesla customers to behave in a similar way to the sample group. "It's just, people don't care about [battery] pack swap. The Superchargers are fast enough."
Free to use, Tesla's Supercharger network refills the Model S's battery in under an hour. Musk has found drivers are happy to drive for several hours and take a break for food and a walk while their Tesla is recharged, rather than receiving a new battery in 90 seconds and setting off again for another 250 miles. "It's like, why would you do the pack swap? It doesn't make much sense," Musk admitted.
Part of the lack of interest may also be down to Tesla charging for the swapping service, although the company promised it would cost less than filling the tank of a similarly sized car with petrol. Suggesting that Tesla is unlikely to build any more battery swap stations, Musk said: "Based on what we're seeing here, it's unlikely to be something that's worth expanding in the future, unless something changes."
As for Tesla's Supercharger network, Musk reminded Model S drivers that they are intended for fully refilling the battery during long journeys - not for short top-ups, which should be done from the driver's own power supply at home. "There are a few people who are quite aggressively using it for local Supercharging, and we will sort of send them just a reminder note that it's cool to do this occasionally, but it's meant to be a long-distance thing."
However, Musk reinstated that Supercharging will remain free forever, and "[the cost of charging to Tesla] is basically built into the cost of the car...based on what we're seeing in terms of the economics, it looks quite supportable."
Finally, Musk said his next car, the Model X, will be delivered to early adopters in the next few months.