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Electric car maker Tesla unveils 90-second battery pack swap

Tesla Motors Inc CEO Elon Musk talks about Tesla's new battery swapping program in Hawthorne, California June 20, 2013. REUTERS/Lucy Nichols
Tesla Motors Inc CEO Elon Musk talks about Tesla's new battery swapping program in Hawthorne, California June 20, 2013. REUTERS/Lucy Nichols

By Nichola Groom

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Tesla Motors Inc on Thursday unveiled a system to swap battery packs in its electric cars in about 90 seconds, a service Chief Executive Elon Musk said will help overcome fears about their driving range.

The automaker will roll out the battery-swapping stations later this year, beginning along the heavily-traveled route between Los Angeles and San Francisco and then in the Washington-to-Boston corridor.

"There are some people, they take a lot of convincing," Musk said at an event at Tesla's Los Angeles design studio. "Hopefully this is what convinces people finally that electric cars are the future."

Electric cars have been slow to catch on with consumers because of their high price, limited driving range and lack of a charging infrastructure. Tesla has been working to address some of those issues with fast-charging stations and now with the battery-swapping technology.

A battery pack swap will cost between $60 and $80, about the same as filling up a 15-gallon gas tank, Musk said. Drivers who choose to swap must reclaim their original battery on their return trip or pay the difference in cost for the new pack.

Musk demonstrated two Model S battery pack swaps in the time it took for a car on a screen above the stage to fill up with gas, about four minutes.

The stations will cost about a half a million dollars each to build. They will be located alongside Tesla's fast-charging stations, which take around 30 minutes to charge the car's battery.

Musk told Reuters earlier this week that the battery-replacement network would entail an investment of $50 million to $100 million.

In contrast to several traditional automakers that have rolled out electric vehicles that failed to live up to expectations, Tesla has sold thousands of its luxury electric cars. Investors have embraced the company's strategy and Tesla shares have nearly tripled this year.

The announcement comes a month after Better Place, an electric vehicle company whose business was centered around battery swapping, said it would liquidate.

(Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

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