Tesla Shows Off 90-Second Battery Swap for Its Electric Cars

From depleted to back on the road in 90 seconds, Tesla shows off its new battery-swapping trick.

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“The only decision you need to make when you come to one of our Tesla stations,” said Tesla founder Elon Musk during a news conference Thursday, “is do you prefer faster or free?”

Musk then showed a video of an Audi being gassed up, while on-stage at the same time, a Tesla Model S had its battery back swapped out for one with a full charge.

Seeing that this was Tesla’s event, you can guess which task took a minute and a half and which task took north of four minutes. To prove his point, Musk rolled a second Model S out on stage and swapped its battery back out in 90 seconds as well.

It’s hard to tell from the above video, but the Tesla car drives over the top of a special platform, which “raises from the ground to disconnect and grab hold of the depleted battery, says TechCrunch. “The platform then descends back into the ground, dumps the battery, retrieves a fresh one, and rises once more to connect it to the car.”

Here’s a closer look:


So here we have Tesla’s answer to those who would complain that recharging an electric vehicle takes too long. An hour on a standard 120-volt outlet nets just five miles of range. Tesla’s free network of “Supercharger” stations’ chargers are much faster, but still take long enough that the company says, “Road trippers can stop for a quick meal and have their Model S charged when they’re done.” Ninety seconds for a battery swap, by comparison, seems like a godsend.

Remember Musk’s initial question, though: “Do you prefer faster or free?” If you watched the above video, you’ll notice that he never addressed how much the non-free option costs. However, Reuters reports Musk as saying the service will cost between $60 and $80. There’s a catch, too: “Drivers who choose to swap must reclaim their original battery on their return trip or pay the difference in cost for the new pack,” says Reuters.

The battery-swap systems will begin rolling out between L.A. and San Francisco later this year, before popping up between D.C. and Boston, reports Reuters. “Hopefully this is what convinces people that electric cars are the future,” said Musk.