Detroit Electric SP:01 Revives the Electric Sports Car
The Tesla Roadster was a milestone car for many reasons. First, it proved that the term “electric sports car” didn’t have to be an oxymoron. Second, it proved that there was a market (albeit a very small one, due to the six-figure price tag) for such a car. And third, it paved the way for Tesla’s next model, the highly-acclaimed Model S. So it’s a bit of a shame that it was discontinued after an abbreviated 2012 model year.
So that’s the end of the road for production electric sports cars, right? Well, no. Mercedes-Benz will soon start selling an all-electric SLS AMG. But what if you want something lighter, nimbler, and with an open top? Well, there’s a new company with an old name that looks set to cater to your tastes.
The name of the firm is Detroit Electric, derived from the original company that produced about 13,000 electric cars between 1906 and 1939. And like the first iteration of Detroit Electric (and as the name suggests), the company is based in the Motor City, with the historic Fisher Building serving as the headquarters. Assembly of the car – named the SP:01 – will take place somewhere else in Wayne County. And the assembly process will start with the modified chassis of a new Lotus Exige, which is similar to the path Tesla took with the Elise-derived Roadster.
Detroit Electric is also using a similar strategy with regard to styling. The SP:01 shares its exterior lights and basic shape with the Exige, but the carbon fiber bodywork incorporates reshaped front and rear fascias, non-opening front decklid, and side scoops. The four round taillights are also arranged in a different formation, but the lift-off roof panel is basically the same as it is on the Lotus. Wheels and tires are 16” in front and 17” in back.
Inside, it’s basically standard sports car fare, with one notable exception. The SP:01 will feature a smartphone-based (Android, iOS, Windows or Blackberry? Detroit Electric isn’t saying.) telematics system dubbed SAMI, short for Smartphone Application Managed Infotainment. It controls the sound system, GPS, interior lighting, and can make and receive phone calls, as well as allowing you to monitor telemetry like the state of charge for the batteries and how far you can go on the charge you have. SAMI can also function as a remote control unit to do things like turn on the climate control system and or check the charge status of the batteries via your smartphone.
So what kind of batteries are we talking about? We’re talking about two 37 kWh lithium-polymer battery packs, and they feed current to an air-cooled AC motor that produces the equivalent of 201hp and 166 lb.-ft of torque. And unlike most EVs, the transmission has multiple speeds, and there are multiple transmissions from which buyers will be able to choose: A 4-speed manual will be standard, while a 5-speed manual and a 2-speed automatic will be optional. But because electric motors produce their maximum torque from 0 rpm and up (and aren’t turning when the vehicle is stopped), you won’t have to use the clutch when you stop or accelerate from a stop a standard shift SP:01.
Naturally, all that grunt (and a claimed 2,354 lb. curb weight) means the SP:01 should really scoot. Detroit Electric claims 0-62 mph runs will take 3.7 seconds, while the top speed will be 155 mph. On the European driving cycle, range is 180 miles per charge (Expect 150 miles on the EPA’s cycle.). A full charge, incidentally, is expected to take 4.3 hours with the 240V home charger. And thanks to some clever computer programming, the home charger can also detect a loss of current coming from the grid, and automatically give the SP:01 owner the option to use the car to serve as a backup power supply for the house. Very cool, but probably not of much use if the batteries are almost drained at the moment the blackout starts.
Detroit Electric says SP:01 prices will start at $135,000, a figure that will increase with options and decrease with any applicable tax incentives. That’s a lot of money for a car with two seats, hardly any luggage space, and a decidedly limited driving range. But considering it can provide backup power to your house and you’ll never have to take it to a gas station (and the Tesla Roadster wasn’t much cheaper), maybe it’s not so bad.
Source: Detroit Electric
Hopefully the Detroit Electric will keep people interested in electric sports cars, because I think there is a lot of potential for this market. Plus if the Detroit Electric does well enough, they will gain a tremedous lead in competition among the market.