The name hasn’t been used in decades, but a startup operating under the banner Detroit Electric plans to build a new electric sports car in Michigan. The company, led by a former Lotus Cars engineer, will launch its new car next month and reveal it publicly at the Shanghai Motor Show in China on April 20.
The original Detroit Electric was once a successful purveyor of all-electric cars, selling about 13,000 units to customers that reportedly included Thomas Edison and John D. Rockefeller Jr. The company launched in 1907 but went out business shortly before the start of World War II.
In 2008, the brand name was revived by Albert Lam. A former executive director of LotusCars, Lam plans to launch a range of all-electric cars that will be designed and built in Michigan. The company has secured its new headquarters in the Fisher Building in downtown Detroit, and says it will announce a Michigan manufacturing location later this year. A company representative says the manufacturing site is an existing factory that will be reworked for Detroit Electric’s needs, but it is “not necessarily” in Detroit. The plant should begin production by August and will have an annual capacity of 2500 cars.
The shadowy teaser photo looks like it shows a Lotus Elise or Exige. Given Detroit Electric’s promise of building an electric two-seat sports car, and that the company promises to partner with an existing global automaker, it seems likely that the company plans to build an electric version of the Lotus. (After all, CEO Lam used to work for Lotus.) But a company representative wouldn’t confirm which automaker Detroit Electric will partner with. In 2008, Detroit Electric was reportedly in talks with various Chinese and Malaysian automakers to develop an electric sedan, although the finished product never materialized.
In addition to private investors, Detroit Electric is apparently in talks with the U.S. government and the State of Michigan for funding sources. That could mean the company wants a piece of the alternative-fuel loans that help helped fund other startups like Tesla Motors and Fisker Automotive. Detroit Electric is currently developing a “full-scale” distribution network to sell the cars nationwide.
The company says its new sports car will offer, “bold styling, outstanding performance, exhilarating handling characteristics and impressive range.” A representative confirms the car will use bespoke electronics, battery packs, and motors developed by Detroit Electric.
It will be revealed at a private event in Detroit’s Fisher Building on April 3 before being shown at the Shanghai show. Detroit Electric plans to bring the car to other major auto shows around the world. Next year, the company plans to launch two all-electric sedans that could enter production by late 2014.
If the Detroit Electric car really is based on a Lotus platform, it would follow several other electrics based on the lightweight British car. Dodge toyed with building an EV called the Circuit, which would have been based on the Lotus Europa. It never reached series production. The Tesla Roadster, the eponymous company’s first car before the current Model S sedan, was also based on a modified Lotus Elise/Exige platform. The Roadster sold about 2300 units worldwide.