Co-founder of the Internet financial service PayPal and owner of electric car maker Tesla Motors, billionaire Elon Musk, is pushing hard for enabling long distance travel in electric cars.
At an event Thursday in Tesla's design studio in Los Angeles, Musk unveiled a new battery swapping system that automatically replaces a discharged battery with a fully charged one in about the same time it takes to fill up a 50-liter gas tank, and for about the same price.
Recharging the batteries at Tesla's supercharging stations is free but it takes about 30 minutes. A fully charged battery gives the car a range of approximately 320 kilometers.
Tesla Motors has eight charging stations in California but plans to open many more, making it possible to travel in one of its cars from coast to coast by the end of the next year. The battery-swapping stations will open later this year, first along the busy highway between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Purely electric cars are cheaper to run than gasoline but have been slow to catch on because of the cost, limited driving range, lack of infrastructure and the time it takes to recharge the batteries.
Tesla electric cars have been selling at a rate of about 20,000 per year. Investors are supporting the company's strategy and its shares have nearly tripled this year.