In EV News: Tesla Model S Plaid Launches, Battery Swapping and More

Thursday night at its assembly plant in Fremont, California, Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) officially launched its new Model S Plaid. The first 25 vehicles will be delivered Friday to reservation holders.

CEO Elon Musk said production would begin with runs of a few hundred per week before ramping up to 1,000 per week in the third quarter. Following a recent price increase of $10,000, the base price of the car is $129,990.

The Model S Plaid also includes a new heat pump and thermal system that Musk said is 30% better in cold weather and requires 50% less energy for cabin heating in freezing conditions. If that claim is borne out, better cold-weather performance could have a huge impact on the car’s performance (and sales) in cold climates.

Performance specs (1.99 seconds to go from 0 to 60 mph, a quarter-mile time of 9.23 seconds and a top speed of 200 mph) were already announced and now can be verified in the real world. InsideEVs has posted a selection of videos submitted by early drivers.

A San Francisco-based startup named Ample has deployed five battery-swapping stations in the Bay Area where drivers can have a depleted battery removed and replaced with a fresh one in less than 15 minutes, about half the time needed for a fast charge. The company has a deal with Uber Technologies Inc. (NYSE: UBER) to help coordinate fleet management services and about 100 Uber drivers in the Bay Area already use Ample’s swapping stations, making an average of 1.3 swaps a day, according to a Bloomberg report.

China has about 600 battery-swapping stations throughout the country and expects to have 1,000 by the end of this year. While only a small part of the charging infrastructure, the Chinese have already determined that “swapping has to be a significant part” of the transition to clean energy vehicles.

Another piece was added to the clean-energy puzzle on Thursday with an announcement from hydrogen fuel-cell maker Plug Power Inc. (NASDAQ: PLUG) that it plans to build an $84 million green hydrogen production plant in Camden County, Georgia. The plant’s daily production capacity will be 15 tons of liquid green hydrogen beginning next year.

Green hydrogen uses only water and electricity generated from renewable sources like wind and solar as raw materials. Whether green hydrogen becomes a major part of the effort to eliminate fossil fuels depends largely on massive investment. The European Union, for example, has been considering spending as much as $558 billion by 2050 to develop green hydrogen.