One of the biggest complaints against electric-powered vehicles is their inability to easily travel long distances like their gas-powered cousins. Inventor, philanthropist, and entrepreneur Elon Musk announced on Thursday night that gas-powered vehicles have lost this advantage with his latest innovation.
Speaking to a crowd of car owners and media in Hawthorne, a city just outside of Los Angeles, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk announced that Tesla will be rolling out a system that removes electric car batteries and replaces them in just 90 seconds. "We designed the Model S from the beginning to be capable of swapping out the battery pack faster than you can fill a gas tank," said Musk.
Earlier this month, Tesla revealed its plan to place free charging stations as part of a Supercharger network on every major highway in the nation. This would allow one to drive an electric car from Los Angeles to New York City. On average, the Model S can travel about 200 miles on one charge. A battery can be recharged to 50% of its capacity at one of these stations in about 20 or 30 minutes. With the ability to swap batteries, though, you will no longer need to wait that long or even get out of your car — you can just swap the battery easily at a station. At the stations, drivers will have the option to pay about $50 for the instant swap or take the free route by just charging their existing battery.
Musk, also known for creating PayPal and SpaceX, said that this new battery swap service will start on the nation's busiest travel corridors. Interstate 5 in California, the West Coast's main highway, will be where the first ones are placed. Road&Track Magazine reports that each swapping station will cost about $500,000 to build.
The idea of being able to swap out batteries easily is "not an especially novel idea" according to Musk, who pointed out that even children's toys can do it. If toys can swap out batteries, why not electric cars?
With the ability to easily swap batteries, Tesla's Model S has overcome a huge advantage of gas-powered cars in long-term travel. Now its biggest hindrance is cost. Although they have paid off their government loan and outsold other luxury car brands, at $62,000 for a base model the price point is still too high for the average American. Musk said he plans to have a more affordable car available by 2016.
Check out Elon Musk demonstrating the battery swap program on Tesla's website.
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