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Detroit Electric returns with world’s fastest EV

Lotus position: The Detroit Electric SP:01 wears its Lotus inspiration for all the world to see, with styling all but indistinguishable from an Exige.

Back from the dead, Detroit Electric will soon release the rapid SP:01 EV coupe


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8 Apr 2013

RE-BORN American car-maker Detroit Electric will pick up where fellow US company Tesla left off when it releases the SP:01 coupe in August.

The company’s first model in more than 70 years will be a curvaceous two-door, based on the Lotus Exige and primed to take the reins as the world’s fastest electric road car.

The SP:01 will in many ways be the spiritual successor to the discontinued Tesla Roadster that also used Lotus underpinnings.

Also like the Tesla, production will be capped, with 999 SPs to be produced for an array of global markets.

Pricing will start from $US135,000, but Australia appears to be off the radar at this stage.

In another parallel to Tesla, the SP:01 will be the just the first model produced by Detroit Electric, with the company promising to have two other performance EV model lines in production in 2014.

Full SP:01 details were announced last week, and make for impressive reading. A zero to 100km/h sprint time of 3.7 seconds (matching the departed Tesla), a 249km/h top speed and a range between recharges in excess of 300km under controlled conditions.

Propulsion comes from a 150kW/216Nm electric motor powered by a 37kWh battery pack. The battery also has bi-directional charge, allowing it to feed power back into the power source, enabling it to function as a kind of backup household generator.

Drivers can select one of four gear ratios for optimal acceleration – most EVs are single-speed – but unlike the manual shift in a conventional car, the company says there is little need to change gear regularly.

Thanks to the aluminium platform – developed over five years – and carbon-fibre bodywork, weight has been kept down to just 1067kg.

The company has fitted “specialised performance-tuned” suspension, steering and brake systems to provide claimed class-leading ride and handling.

The timing of Detroit Electric’s revival is interesting, considering the state of play of fellow notable US-based EV manufacturers Fisker and Tesla.

Last week, embattled brand Fisker laid-off around three-quarters of its workforce, while Tesla is embroiled in claims that it encouraged customers to pay up-front for cars that had not yet been built so it could turn a profit for the first time in its 10-year history.

Nevertheless, Detroit Electric claims its new Michigan facility – which will have an annual capacity of 2500 vehicles – will create over 180 manufacturing jobs over the next twelve months.

As reported, Detroit Electric was resurrected in 2008 by former Lotus Group CEO Albert Lam, who previously attempted to set up partnerships with car-makers for the revival without success.

In 2008, Chinese automotive giant Youngman formed a joint venture with US EV maker ZAP to revive the Detroit Electric name and set up shop in California, but the deal was abandoned after they were unable to raise the necessary funds.

Then in 2009, Detroit Electric struck up a deal with Malaysian car-maker Proton to produce two electric passenger cars, but it never got beyond the planning stage and was shelved.

The company will use the Shanghai motor show later this month to announce a partnership with a major global car-maker.

It has been speculated that the 2013 iteration of Detroit Electric will again partner with Proton, because the two companies have a history and the link to British sportscar manufacturer Lotus.

Dating back to the early 1900s, Detroit Electric produced electric cars that cost twice the price of a Model T Ford, but by 1939 it had sold a record 13,000 units.

The battery range for these first electric vehicles was impressive by today’s standards, as a 1914 Detroit Electric car was capable of travelling up to 387 kilometres on a single charge – but its top speed was just 40km/h.

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