Edmunds Green Car Advisor reports that Tesla Motors' Model S sedan was designed to allow its battery pack to be switched with a fresh one in five minutes. Tesla Motors

Imagine pulling into a service station, but instead of filling the tank with unleaded, you slide out your drained battery and — for a fee — slide in a fully charged one. It’s a similar model to that many stores use for propane tanks, and it could one envisioned for Tesla’s new Model S sedan. Edmunds Green Car Advisor reports the new model was designed with swappable batteries in mind, according to Tesla’s outgoing director of vehicle engineering and manufacturing.

In an interview shortly after his resignation was announced, Michael Donoughe said the Model S’s lithium-ion battery pack was designed to be switched with a fresh one in five minutes or less, about the time it takes to fill a standard car’s gas tank. The concept, he said, stemmed from a need to design the battery pack to be installed during the car’s manufacturing process at assembly-line speed.

That kind of battery-swapping system has been envisioned by Shai Agassi, founder and CEO of Better Place, a Palo Alto startup aiming to build and operate battery-swapping stations for electric vehicles, though Donoughe said Tesla isn’t “wedded” to Better Place. Green Car Advisor says Agassi had met with Tesla about his battery-swapping business, and Tesla’s decision to design the Model S for quick battery swaps might have something to do with those discussions.

The Tesla Model S is reportedly on track for a 2011 launch, and the company expects to produce 400 a week or 20,000 a year within six months.

[via Edmunds Green Car Advisor]

Tesla Model S, Driving

Silicon Valley’s Tesla Motors released new photos this week of its upcoming Model S all-electric sedan. Tesla’s chief designer, Franz Von Holzhausen, is behind the wheel.

Tesla Model S, Full Frontal

Tesla says the 3,825-lbs Model S, which is powered by a similar all-electric powerplant as the roadster, will get from zero to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds, around the same as a BMW 535i.

Tesla Model S, Side View

Top speed of the Tesla Model S, formerly code-named White Star, will be limited to 120 mph. Three battery pack options will offer a range of 160, 230 or 300 miles on a charge, which can be handled in 3 to 5 hours by 120V or 240V outlets, or in 45 minutes by way of a 480V supply. Of course, Tesla points out, you could just swap out the battery in 5 minutes.

Tesla Model S, Low Angle

Tesla officials said earlier this year the Model S will arrive in 2011 at a base price of $57,400, or $49,900 after $7,500 in government rebates.

Tesla Model S, Front

Tesla unveiled the Model S prototype this past March at the company’s design studio inside the SpaceX rocket factory, a space-exploration start-up founded by Tesla (and PayPal) founder Elon Musk, in Hawthorne, Calif.