Tesla Motors boss, Elon Musk, has announced that his company plans to install new battery-swap technology at a number of its Supercharging stations. This feature will allow Tesla Model S owners to exchange a depleted battery pack for a new, fully charged one in an automated procedure that takes about 90 seconds to complete. Musk demonstrated the process at a press event last night in Los Angeles, indicating that the first of these enhanced facilities should be up and running sometime during the fourth quarter.

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According to Tesla, a battery swap-out will cost customers between $60-$80 dollars, a fee that will be automatically billed to their account as the vehicle enters one of these robotically actuated changing stations. Owners can return later to have their original pack reinstalled or pay an additional amount to keep the new (or newer) battery with its longer warranty. Initial installations of Tesla's new battery-swapping facilities will be located adjacent to Interstate 5 between Los Angeles and San Francisco as well as in the corridor linking Boston and Washington D.C.

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Musk noted that there will be no changes to the basic operation of Tesla's standard plug-in Supercharger system, which will remain a no-cost recharging option for Model S owners with cars that have the 85kWh battery pack. As part of the previously announced expansion of its Supercharger network, Tesla will upgrade the recharging rate to permit a Model S to take on about three hours worth of drive time in roughly 20 minutes instead of the current 45. According to Musk, the only question to be answered by the owner is: "Do you prefer faster or free?"

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