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Shanghai show: Detroit Electric sparks return

Motor City machine: Few details are available for Detroit Electric’s sports EV concept, but this teaser image highlights a sleek coupe design that will be revealed at the Shanghai motor show next month.

Detroit Electric returns to Motor City with EV sportscar after 70-year absence

Detroit Electric logo20 Mar 2013

A FOURTH car company will join Detroit’s big three this year, in the shape of a reborn Detroit Electric that will first produce an all-electric sportscar, with more models to follow.

The brand is returning to America’s automotive hub after a 70-year absence, with plans to build a limited edition two-seat sports coupe that will be launched in Detroit early next month ahead of a global reveal at the Shanghai motor show on April 20.

Two images released by the company show the logo of the reborn car-maker and a back-lit teaser image of the EV’s top half, revealing a low slung stance, LED daytime running lights and sporty lines.

Without confirming specific countries, Detroit Electric said the coupe will go on sale in target markets by the end of this year, with a further two performance models to go into production by the end of 2014.

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 also use the Shanghai show 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.

150 center imageLeft: Detroit Electric founder Albert Lam

Dating back to the early 1900s, Detroit Electric produced electric cars that cost twice the price of a Model T Ford, but by 1912 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.

These early electric vehicles were favoured by well-to-do women like Henry Ford’s wife Clara and first lady Mamie Eisenhower, while other famous customers included industrialist (and later philanthropist) John D Rockefeller Jr and inventor Thomas Edison.

Detroit Electric’s new headquarters is located in Motor City’s famous Fisher Building and the company plans to create around 180 sales and manufacturing jobs in the next 12 months.

The company, headed up by former Lotus Engineering CEO Don Graunstadt, has identified a manufacturing site in Michigan where it plans to produce 2500 vehicles per year.

Detroit Electric says it has taken five years of research and development to get the sports EV to concept stage, and the coupe is promised to “quicken pulses thanks to its bold styling, outstanding performance, exhilarating handling characteristics and impressive range”.

Mr Lam said the new sports EV is just the beginning for the reborn brand.

“The sports car will allow us to demonstrate to the world our ability to build an exciting and innovative product.

“This DNA will be translated across to our future sedans all our cars will be fun to drive and deliver exceptional performance within their class.” Detroit Electric’s return to the market adds to the growing number of electric sportscar-makers in the US that already includes Tesla Motors and Fisker Automotive, both of which are based in California.

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