Saleen Announces "Revolutionary" Electric Supercar, a Trend Inspired by Tesla

By · December 06, 2013

Saleen S7

The Saleen S7: it could be the fastest production car in the world. (Jim Motavalli photo)

In a certain type of dorm room, the Saleen 7 has pride of place as what may just be the fastest street car ever produced. The Ford-based road rocket features a huge seven-liter twin-turbo V-8 capable of 750 horsepower and zero to 62 mph in just 3.2 seconds—theoretically, 248 mph is possible. The company is probably best known for souping up the Mustang, and that work should pick up now a new model has been announced. Despite all that, Saleen’s next project is…an electric car.

A Trend, Not a Fad

Conversations with auto moguls as diverse as Henrik Fisker, Elon Musk, Reeves Callaway, the late Carroll Shelby (who would have loved to build a hybrid Cobra) and assorted muckety-mucks at Porsche and Mercedes reveal a deep-seated desire to equate high performance with environmental returns. Sometimes, as with the Fisker Karma, it delivers a car that’s trying hard but not really achieving in either of those categories, and sometimes it delivers the Model S. The runaway success of the latter is undoubtedly going to inspire more announcements like this one.

According to Steve Saleen, the company’s CEO, “We recognize that electric cars are a trend, not a fad, and expect this vehicle category to continue to increase as an automotive option for consumers.” He said his new car will be “revolutionary in its aesthetics and mechanics” and urged Saleen’s fans to “throw away your preconceived notions and expectations.”

Speculation is that Saleen is going to build a two-seater. “An EV sports car from Saleen could fill the void left by the Tesla Roadster’s discontinuation,” says Motor Trend. Its S5S Raptor Concept could be the basis for such a car.

Saleen S5S Raptor

The Saleen S5S Raptor: Will the electric Saleen look like this?. (Saleen photo)

Legacy Cars for the Moguls

Porsche’s $845,000 918 Spyder, a plug-in hybrid, is another example of having-it-all supercars—if you could possibly afford it. The company claims that in 127-horsepower electric mode that car delivers 18 miles of range, at speeds up to…93 mph. But with the 608-horsepower V-8 cranked, well, get out of its way. That means the car’s emissions profile will be all over the map, but it’s the price you pay for schizophrenic cars like this.

Introductions From Europe

As Laurent Masson has written for PlugInCars.com, the ground is becoming thick with EV supercars, particularly in Europe. In Paris, Mercedes showed off the $540,000 SLS AMG Electric Drive/E-Cell, with four wheel motors, a 60-kilowatt-hour pack, and a massive 552 kilowatts on tap (more power than the gas AMG)—plus 738 pound feet of torque.

You might expect Mercedes partner Tesla to have breathed on this car, but you’d be wrong. According to Car and Driver, “Mercedes insists that Tesla—in which it now has a stake of ownership—was in no way involved in the development of the E-Cell.” But even if Tesla didn’t engineer the car, it’s there in spirit. All the luxury/performance marques are chasing Tesla, both because of its sales numbers and because of the prestige factor.

Also shown in Paris was the oddly named twin-motored $523,000 Exagon Furtive eGT, which offers zero to 62 in 3.5 seconds, 296 kilowatts and 381 pound feet of torque.

Steve Saleen says he’ll have more details on his EV early next year, when he promises scale models. He says expedited completion of his plug-in dreams can be realized because of “the rapid pace of advancements in electric vehicle technology.” By that he means high-performance motors, controllers and lightweight, modular battery packs of 85 kilowatt-hours or more, right out of the Tesla playbook, enabling both long range and insane zero to 60 times.

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