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Gone in 90 seconds: Tesla's battery-swapping magic

(Businessweek) Earlier this year, Tesla Motors (TSLA) Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk unveiled a nationwide network of super-fast charging stations to refuel the company’s all-electric sedans on long-distance trips. The really nice thing about these charging stations is that they’re free. Free! The downside is that they take about 30 minutes to put 200 miles’ worth of charge back into the car. That might not seem like a horribly long time, but it’s long enough for critics of electric cars to argue that they’re not well-suited for long journeys, and so not that practical.

Well, Tesla took a major stride toward getting rid of that downside last night.

Musk presided over an event at Tesla’s Los Angeles design studio that he billed as a “title fight” between the Model S and gas-powered cars. In front of an audience of hundreds of Model S owners, Musk unveiled a new type of automated battery-swap system in which machines grab the flat battery pack from the bottom of the Model S and replace it with a brand-new, fully charged one.