Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk Unveils New Battery Swap System for Model S

Electric car manufacturer unveils battery swap system many see as gamechanger.

For electric, it’s all about the charge.

One of the major roadblocks in convincing consumers to switch to electric-power automobiles, the charging time of a battery, may just have been overcome.

At a fancy, music-thumping reveal Thursday night, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk demonstrated the new battery swap system for the Model S, one of the most raved about cars in years. The future for Model S drivers is all about “optionality” said Musk. Currently customers may use the supercharger located at Tesla stations for free (which Musk says will always remain an option) which takes about 20 minutes. But now they can also opt for a battery swap that takes less than 90 seconds. With a battery swap time like that, the advantage gasoline-fueled cars had in terms of range limits has taken a hit.

With an inerasable smile, Musk kicked off a competition, seen in the video above between what he called the fastest gas station in Los Angeles, and a new Tesla battery swap station. Much to the tittering delight of the audience, not only did the battery swap happen in less time, it was completed in half the time it took for the driver to fuel up his car.

“Hopefully,” said Musk, “This is what convinces people finally that electric cars are the future.”

What remains to be seen however, as CNET’s Wayne Cunningham points out , is whether Musk’s decision to create a battery changing standard solely for Tesla will be as successful as the decision by past car manufacturers developing a cross-brands standard for fueling. However, Tesla may already have sold enough of its Model S to give the battery swap systems enough scale to be successful.

Regardless, this is a major dent in what has so far been a tough journey to carve out a significant portion of the car market for electric.