No time to charge? Tesla launches battery-swap station

Tesla opens 1st battery swap station
Tesla opens 1st battery swap station   

Tesla on Friday announced that it is opening its first battery-swap station next week, as it takes the next step in eliminating range anxiety and inconvenience for electric vehicle owners.

The station, located in Harris Ranch, California, between Los Angeles and San Francisco, is running in a limited capacity while it undergoes testing.

"At least initially, battery swap will be available by appointment and will cost slightly less than a full tank of gasoline for a premium sedan," CEO Elon Musk wrote in a blog post on Tesla's website. "More time is needed to remove the titanium and hardened aluminum ballistic plates that now shield the battery pack, so the swap process takes approximately three minutes."

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Currently, drivers have to wait between 20 minutes and an hour at one of its supercharger stations.

When Musk first unveiled plans to build battery swap stations last year, many greeted the news as a potential game changer. After all, the ability to charge up a Model S in less time than it takes to fill a car with gas would diminish a huge advantage for gasoline-powered vehicles, which can be refueled in minutes.

Tesla Model S
Allen Wastler | CNBC
Tesla Model S

Still, critics pointed out that it would take Tesla years to build enough battery swap stations to make it a regular part of Tesla owners' lives.

Friday's announcement comes as shares of Tesla start to recover from weeks of pressure. The stock has moved lower for much of the last month due to concerns that low gas prices could make the electric vehicle market less attractive in 2015.

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Tesla's shares were down slightly in afternoon trading on Friday, near $216.

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