Detroit Electric Unveils SP:01, Using Tesla Roadster Strategy

By · April 05, 2013

Detroit Electric SP:01 electric supercar

Detroit Electric SP:01 electric supercar

Detroit Electric yesterday took the covers off its electric supercar, which will carry its venerable brand name from early automobile history. The Detroit Electric SP:01 is an all- electric sports car more than a little reminiscent of the Lotus Elise. It will become the fastest all-electric production car on the U.S. market.

The SP:01 is a rear-wheel drive car, with a compact mid-mounted 201-bhp electric motor (delivering 166 lb-ft of torque), based on a lightweight bonded all-aluminum platform and all new carbon-fiber bodywork. The SP:01 weighs 2,354 pounds, and has specialized performance-tuned suspension, steering and brake systems. The combination provides a 155 mile an hour top speed, while zipping from zero to 60 in 3.7 seconds.

The chassis is "a re-engineered, well-proven sport scar platform," supplied as a rolling chassis. It has a 90.6-inch (2,300 mm) wheelbase, fully independent double-wishbone suspension, front and rear, a front anti-roll bar, coil springs, and Bilstein damper.

The drivetrain includes a four-speed transmission carried over from the donor car. The original transmission has six gears but because of the car's power—fifth and sixth gear are blocked out. Buyers can opt to have fifth and sixth gear reinstated, or to buy a two-speed automatic gearbox. By using a transmission, Detroit Electric was able to maximize the use of a less costly AC motor.

The "well-proven sports car platform" used as the basis of the SP:01 is clearly the Lotus Elise. Albert Lam, Detroit Electric’s Chairman and Group CEO, was executive director of Lotus Cars and group chief executive of the Lotus Engineering Group. As we noted in previous coverage, the resurrection of Detroit Electric was begun by Albert Lam in 2008 with an ill-fated first step in partnership with ZAP.

Charging and an App

The 37 kilowatt-hour battery pack, according to the company, provides a range of about 190 miles between recharges, as tested by the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) standard. Real-world mileage is more likely to be 150 miles or less. No word on its range according to EPA test cycles. The home charging unit will give a full charge in about four-and-a-half hours.

Detroit Electric is making questionable claims about vehicle-to-grid capability. The charging system, according to the company, includes a bi-directional charge and discharge capability, that lets your car act as a whole house battery back-up system. It is made possible through the home charging and power back-up unit named “360 Power back.” It operates as an 8-kilowatt charging station (240 volts, 32 amps), and it can detect failure of the power grid, at which time it notifies the owner who can instruct the car to feed power to the home.

SAMI, a.k.a. Smartphone Application Managed Infotainment system, uses the owners smart phone to control the infotainment system, and supports functions like a music player, satellite navigation, interior lighting adjust and vehicle systems status including level of battery charge, range to recharge and other vehicle telemetry. A remote control unit helps the owner locate their vehicle, control the climate system, and check charging status.

Buyers will be able to choose between three alloy wheel designs, optional exposed carbon-fiber trim and a choice of seven metallic and pearlescent paint finishes. These colors include: Electric Blue, Metallic Black, Lightning Silver, Pearl White, Ardent Red, Bronze Orange and Pearlescent Green.

Not Cheap

The pricing of the Detroit Electric SP:01 starts at U.S. $135,000. Manufacturing is slated to begin in August 2013, only four months from now. The company plans to build 999 units. The warranty is much shorter than for other electric cars, at three years and 30,000 miles, with an optional extension to 5 years or 50,000 miles. The manufacturing plant, in Wayne Country, Michigan, will have the capacity to manufacture 2,500 cars a year. Detroit Electric will aim to homologate the SP:01 under low volume production rules in Europe, Japan, Hong Kong, and the United States.

The company plans to follow the SP:01 by launching "a diverse family of all-electric production cars, including two other high-performance models that are scheduled to enter production by end of 2014."

Tesla Strategy on Steroids

Detroit Electric is apparently following a pattern established by Tesla Motors—starting with an electric conversion sports car built on a Lotus chassis, and following with a line of cars.

However, Detroit Electric intends to begin production of their follow-on car much faster than Tesla Motors did. The Tesla Roadster began production in 2008, and the Model S began production in 2012, a gap of four years. Detroit Electric said it intends to launch the first of its follow-on cars with a gap of just one year. This is widely regarded as a promise that cannot be fulfilled—calling into question the ability of the company to deliver the SP:01 on time, and with the specifications announced yesterday.

“The SP:01 will be exclusive, luxurious and technologically advanced,” said Albert Lam, Detroit Electric’s Chairman and Group CEO. “It is a milestone in the history of the Detroit Electric brand, but also a significant development for the international EV sector.” However, the EV sector has also been characterized by more than its share of big claims, followed by unfulfilled promises and bankruptcies. We'll get our first indication of how Detroit Electric will fare, based on its ability to begin producing and selling cars in decent quantities in 2013.

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