Tesla Will Show Off Their Battery-Swapping Plans This Week

I've said here before that I don't think electric cars will truly catch on with mainstream car buyers until recharging becomes as fast and convenient as filling a gas tank. This week, Tesla Motors will show off new technology that could address this problem.

On Thursday, Tesla plans to do a live demonstration of the new battery-swapping technology they're currently testing. (Get it? Currently? Little electricity joke there. Sorry, I'm done now.)

Yahoo! Autos' Justin Hyde reports that CEO Elon Musk has hinted that the company has been working on way to recharge a Model S that's actually faster than filling up a gas tank. While the Model S is great, charging time isn't its strong suit — it takes about seven hours to recharge at home, or an hour at a Supercharger station.

That could change depending on what Musk has up his sleeve. Here's what he said on Twitter last night:

Live pack swap demo on Thurs night at 8pm California time at our design studio in Hawthorne. Seeing is believing.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 18, 2013

The timing of this announcement is also interesting, since it comes right on the heels of the demise of Better Place, the Israeli startup company that built battery swapping stations for electric Renaults but declared bankruptcy late last month.

But while the idea is similar (if not new) it's probably not fair to compare Tesla to Better Place. They had remarkably different business models, and Better Place struggled to sell their electric Renaults to customers while Model S-es happen to be flying off the shelves at the moment.

There are certainly challenges involved with swapping stations, as Hyde notes:

But it's not a simple task; the battery pack in an 80-kWh Model S weighs about 1,200 lbs. And given Tesla's start-up resources, making battery swapping a part of everyday life would seem to call for a high level of automation rather than creating the 21st-century equivalent of the gas station attendant.

What do you think? Can Tesla can succeed where Better Place failed?

Photo credit Dawn Endico