Many people today might not realize it, but electric cars were an early rival to gasoline-powered engines for the road car market in the early 1900s, and the Detroit Electric company was a key early adopter. The technology couldn't compete back then, however, and Detroit Electric produced its last model in 1939...until now.
Albert Lam, former Group CEO of the Lotus Engineering Group and executive director of Lotus Cars, has revived the brand to produce a two-seat pure-electric sports car based on the shell of the Lotus Exige. Boasting a claimed 155mph top speed and covering the 0-62mph sprint in 3.7 seconds, Detroit Electric says the SP:01 is the world's fastest pure-electric production car.
The new car was revealed at Detroit Electric's new headquarters in the Fisher Building in downtown Detroit. Just 999 examples will be built at Detroit Electric's new production facility in Wayne County, Mich., with cars sold worldwide through a network of specialist retail partners.
The SP:01 owes its performance in large part to its power-to-weight ratio. The rear-wheel-drive SP:01 features a compact, mid-mounted 201hp electric motor delivering 166 lb ft of torque, a lightweight, purpose-designed battery pack and all-new carbon fiber bodywork. Total weight is just 2,354 lbs.
The vehicle is based on a strong yet lightweight aluminum platform, and is being launched following a five-year development and road-test program. As well as the all-new carbon fiber bodywork, the SP:01 also features specialized performance-tuned suspension, steering and brake systems.
To deliver instantaneous torque for breath-taking acceleration, the SP:01's innovative powertrain creates an electromagnetic field around the rotor shaft, which then spins at varying speeds to drive the wheels. Drivers can select one of four gear ratios for optimal acceleration, but unlike a manual shift in a conventional car, there is little need to change gear regularly to ensure brisk progress.
With an energy storage capacity of 37 kWh, the battery gives the SP:01 a range of almost 190 miles between recharges, when tested to the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) standard. Detroit Electri's home charging unit will enable drivers to charge their SP:01, with full charge achieved in 4.3 hours. Rigorously tested by Detroit Electric for use in the SP:01, the battery technology also has been deployed successfully in other highly demanding applications, notably in helicopters and submarines.
"The SP:01 will be exclusive, luxurious and technologically advanced," said 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. The car will allow us to demonstrate to the world our ability to build an exciting and innovative product, one that displays outstanding performance coupled with strong green credentials, and which delivers an exhilarating driving experience."
The cabin of the SP:01 is packed with innovation, being the first to use smartphone applications to manage the complete in-car infotainment system. Named "SAMI" (Smartphone Application Managed Infotainment system), it provides access to a wide range of functions, including music player, satellite navigation, interior lighting adjust and vehicle systems status – such as the level of battery charge, range to recharge and other vehicle telemetry. It can, of course, also be used to make mobile phone calls.
SAMI can also act as a remote control unit (via GSM), enabling the user to locate the vehicle, turn on the climate control system and check the charge status.
"Our research engineers at Detroit Electric have taken steps to break the mould," adds Lam. "SP:01 is more than just a sports car, it is a mobile energy unit, allowing the user to use its stored battery energy to power not just the car but even an entire home. SP:01 is equipped with bi-directional charge and discharge capability, allowing it to release its stored electrical energy to power a home."
The SP:01's bi-directional charge and discharge feature is made possible through the patented Detroit Electric home charging and power back-up unit. It is a smart home-charging and power back-up unit that enables the SP:01's battery to be charged at the rate of 8 kWh (240V@32A). This smart unit can also detect any power failure of the grid and provide the option to the user – via SAMI and the GSM network – to instruct the vehicle to restore power to the home using its stored energy.
"360 Powerback is the next level of innovation and shows our determination to provide additional value proposition through our EVs, uniquely elevating us from others in the segment," added Lam.
An all-disc braking system, coupled with ABS (anti-lock braking) and ESP (Electronic Stability Control) is fitted as standard. But it is the SP:01's Regenerative Braking technology that sets the car apart, underpinning superb stopping performance while ensuring greater energy efficiency. The car‟s energy recovery mechanism uses the motor as a generator, recovering kinetic energy when acceleration is interrupted and using it to recharge the vehicle‟s battery packs, while imitating the retardation characteristics of a gasoline engine.
On sale in many of Detroit Electric‟s target markets by end of August, the SP:01 will herald a new family of all-electric production cars, including two other high-performance models that will enter production by the end of 2014. The price of SP:01 starts at $135,000, and will vary according to specification and local taxes. Each SP:01 will come with a three-year, 30,000-mile warranty with an optional extension for the battery to five years and 50,000 miles.
The SP:01 will be produced at the new Detroit Electric production site in Wayne Country, Mich. The dedicated facility will have an annual capacity of 2,500 vehicles and create over 180 manufacturing and sales-related jobs over the next year.
The original electric car innovators, Detroit Electric began life in 1906 and established itself as the market leader and most prolific manufacturer of electric cars. Detroit Electric went on to make some 13,000 vehicles by 1939 and held the electric vehicle production world record for the 20th century.