Tesla Introduces Faster ‘Gas Station’ System

Tesla Supercharger

For electric cars to replace gas-powered vehicles, people will need the entire range of options they now get from a car, including the ability to drive long distances without worrying about battery charging. Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) is responding to that need by introducing a battery swap system that gets drivers back on the road in less than two minutes, at prices that rival the cost of filling a gas tank.

CEO Elon Musk unveiled Tesla’s battery swap method in an event Thursday night in California. When hoping to drive beyond the (at least) 200-mile range of a Tesla, drivers will be able to pull into a charging station and have a machine switch the car’s batteries with fully charged replacements. The process took around 90 seconds in a video demonstration, beating out the four-minute time it took to fill the 23-gallon gas tank of an Audi. The price is estimated between $50 and $80, which would be around the price of filling a standard 16-gallon tank.

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The option to swap batteries in around two minutes will be offered along with the option to “supercharge” your car’s batteries, which takes about one hour to complete. In that respect, Tesla’s system will be much like the classic gas station experience, though robots will perform the work once handled by human beings. Musk noted that it’s important to give consumers every convenience they expect from an automobile in a Tesla.

“Our goal here was to eliminate the objections people have,” Musk told the audience. “We want to show that a Tesla can actually be more convenient than a gasoline car. Hopefully this is what convinces people that electric cars are the future.”

By showing there is no need to worry about driving long distances, Tesla is removing one of the key obstacles standing between the automaker and the consumer. However, the price tag remains an area of concern. Tesla will likely turn a good profit from the battery swap system, and in any case it will be a luxury service item. People who are willing to wait for batteries to charge will be able to do so free of charge.

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Charging “is and always will be free,” Musk noted at one point during his talk. The only decision is “do you prefer faster or free.” Tesla in investing around $100 million in battery-swap machines.

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