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Electric automakers address battery anxiety

Tesla, Nissan induce shoppers with supercharging stations and low cost battery replacement offerings as breakthroughs in lithium-ion batteries forecast reduced costs for electric vehicles
Tesla Motors demonstrates its system to swap battery packs in its electric cars in about 90 seconds, a service Chief Executive Elon Musk said will help overcome fears about their driving range. (Lucy Nicholson/ Reuters photo)
June 24, 2013, 4:07 p.m.

By Robert Duffer, Chicago Tribune

Ever wish you had a clone or a replacement to handle those more anxiety-riddled moments in life? The electric car industry is building off that premise by offering replacement batteries to solve the biggest issue car buyers have in considering electric vehicles: range anxiety.

Range anxiety is the worry that an electric car might not make it to its destination on a single charge. Tesla has rolled out supercharging stations across the country to serve its flagship Model S, and municipalities like Chicago have committed to charging stations throughout the city, with 280 slated to be completed by year’s end.

In addition to the comparatively expensive supercharging network infrastructure, EV automakers are revisiting an old concept: developing a battery replacement infrastructure.

Never one to be out of the media spotlight, Elon Musk, the Tony Stark of Tesla, launched a high tech cocktail party for acolytes and doubters of the high-end electric car company. He emceed the demonstration of a 90-second battery replacement, executed mechanically, while overhead on a video monitor a man—presumably a chump—filled his tank with gas.

According to Catherine Green for Tribune Newspapers, “The battery, which takes up most of the car’s underbelly, was detached and lowered into the automated pit. A new battery rose up to take its place, finishing the entire process in just over one minute and 30 seconds.”

Green goes on to report that Musk and Tesla ushered up another Model S and changed that before the chump at the station finished filling up his car.

The replacement option gives Model S owners another option besides the supercharger network, which is included in the original cost of the car. The 90-second fast swap will cost the equivalent of 15 gallons of fuel in the region, Green wrote.

There’s another kind of battery anxiety for potential EV buyers: life anxiety. Most mass-produced electric vehicles come packaged with a warranty to replace the battery against “battery capacity loss.” For the Nissan Leaf, that is below 70 percent capacity.


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