Tesla Motors will have battery quick-swap bays at many of its supercharging stations nationwide.
The first quick-swap stations will be online in the fourth quarter of this year, and allow changing of battery packs in 90 seconds.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk said drivers will pay the equivalent of a tank of gas for the service, between $60 and $80. The company announced the program last week.
The automated bays will have a Tesla Model S drive over a pit, whereupon robots will remove the old battery pack and replace it with a new one to factory-spec torque settings. The driver does not need to leave the car.
Storage of spare batteries will be both above and below ground, Musk said. Each pack weighs about 1,000 pounds. Each quick-charge station will cost Tesla about $500,000 to build, Musk said.
The initial wave of stations will be along the I-5 corridor in California, as well as the corridor from Boston to Washington, D.C.
Drivers can later return to the same station for their original pack, or keep the new one for a fee, due to the newer pack having a longer warranty period. The changed-out packs will be recharged on-site.
“It’s going to be pull up and go. We’re going to overstock on the battery front,” Musk said.
Consumers can still choose to recharge their existing battery at the free supercharger. Musk has promised the full-charge time would drop from 45 minutes to about 20 minutes within the year.
“The decision is, do you prefer faster or free?” Musk said.
Musk said he would be willing to license the quick-swap technology to anyone willing to meet Tesla’s operating standards.