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Trevor Collett | Dec, 24 2014 | 3 Comments

Tesla will soon come good on its promise to offer customers ‘fast or free’ charging for their electric vehicles, with a pilot program set to begin next week.

The EV-maker already has 1748 Superchargers up and running at 312 sites around the world (including two in Australia), which offer customers free recharging for the life of the car.

As ever with EV-charging, time is the drawback here as a half charge takes around 20 minutes while a full battery charge takes around an hour.

But earlier this year, Tesla demonstrated how the battery in the Model S could be changed in less time than it takes to refuel many conventional cars using a fuel bowser.

A Model S driver casually parks upon the robotic system and doesn’t even need to alight from the car, as the robot arms do all the work and the driver departs with a fully-charged battery in around 90 seconds.

The carmaker’s goal of establishing the battery-swap service by year’s end is about to be realised, with a pilot program to operate in California opposite an existing supercharging station.

Tesla said it will monitor cost, logistics and demand for the service, before deciding on the best strategy to expand the network.

While the ‘free’ option lives up to its name, the ‘fast’ option will incur a fee of around US$60-80 as Tesla aims to keep the cost slightly below that of the ‘equivalent’ full tank of petrol.

Owners can pre-register their credit cards with Tesla to pay for the service, meaning they still won’t have to alight from the vehicle to use it.

Tesla added that the time to complete a battery swap will actually take around three minutes to begin with (rather than 90 seconds), but with improvements to the system, the carmaker hopes to wind this down to less than one minute.

No word yet on when or if a similar battery-swap pilot program will be available to local Tesla customers.

MORE: Tesla Model S P85D Arriving In Australia Q3 2015, Model X On Wish List
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