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Tesla shows off 90-second battery swapping

<p>Battery swapping stations didn't save Better Place, but Tesla Motors hopes to roll them out soon along the West and East Coasts.</p>

Tesla has unveiled a system that swaps battery packs in its electric cars in about 90 seconds, and that could provide an alternative to recharging.

Company chief executive Elon Musk said battery swap stations could be rolled out between Los Angeles and San Francisco in California later this year, with more to follow along the East Coast from Washington up to Boston.

At an event last night, Musk said the system could help drivers overcome fears around driving range.

"What we really want to show here is that you can actually be more convenient than a gasoline car," he added. "Hopefully this is what convinces people finally that electric cars are the future."

Tesla has already committed to adding more solar-powered superchargers to its North American network with the aim of enabling drivers of its Model S sedan to drive across the US, but the battery swap marks a new direction for the company.

A swap will cost drivers between $60 and $80, which is similar to filling up a 15-gallon gas tank, Musk said. The stations will be located alongside superchargers and will cost about $500,000 to build.

The announcement comes only weeks after the bankruptcy of Better Place, which pioneered battery swap technology by building a network of stations in Israel, as well as at sites in Denmark, Hawaii, Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport and Guangzhou in China. The company entered liquidation last month despite raising $850m in private equity and establishing a partnership with Renault.

Tesla will need to prove its technology is more feasible, but the company has a history of confounding expectations. Tesla recorded its first profitable quarter at the beginning of this year and is on track to meet its goal of selling 20,000 Model S units over 2013.

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