If it worked for Tesla, then why not do the same? That’s the thought that first arose when seeing the new Detroit Electric SP:01. The Silicon Valley startup began its journey on the back of a Lotus chassis, so it’s hardly surprising that Motor City’s newest car maker has followed suit.

Tesla stopped building the Roadster in January 2012, a move that was very much in Tesla’s plan – meanwhile Lotus continue to offer, what they call their ‘Small Car Platform’ as a turnkey solution for other car makers.

A spokesperson for Lotus Cars said they were pleased to see the new Detroit Electric SP:01 being launched, “Just as Vauxhall/Opel was with the VX220 and Tesla with its Roaster, Detriot Electric are a contract manufacturing customer of Lotus Cars. They have each used Lotus’ Small Car Platform which is supplied as a rolling chassis built on the world’s finest low-volume production line.”

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(Left to Right) Vauxhall VX220 Turbo and Tesla Roadster, both of which were built upon the Lotus Small Car Platform.

Car makers such as Detroit Electric are able to benefit from a chassis that’s been used to build nearly 50,000 cars – 35-40,000 Lotus vehicles, 7,700 VX220s and 2,500 Tesla Roadters.

In fact, amidst the concerns over the future of Lotus Cars under DRB-Hicom, the company has continued providing design and manufacturing services to its automotive clients. Most of these remain anonymous, but one such project was the original Vanquish which used a crash structure manufactured by Lotus.


The Detroit Electric SP:01 therefore is very much a part of Lotus’ strategy, and a good money-earner to boot.

The company, led by former Lotus Engineering CEO Albert Lam, brings together a venerable old brand (originally founded in 1906) with the very latest electric vehicle technologies.

As already shown by Tesla, combining a lightweight body (1,067kg in this case) with a high-torque EV powertrain produces a very quick sports car – in the SP:01’s case its electric motor generates 201bhp and 166lb-ft of torque, enough to propel it to 155 mph and accelerate from 0-62 mph in just 3.7 seconds.

Its range on a single charge is claimed to reach almost 190 miles, while the SP:01’s batteries can be fully recharged in 4.3 hours using Detroit Electric’s home charging unit.

Production of the SP:01 is limited, although it’s not yet known how many that implies.

Each SP:01 comes with a three-year, 30,000-mile warranty with an optional extension for the battery to five years and 50,000 miles, while pricing starts at USD $135,000 – around £89,000.

It seems a curious time to be launching an EV sports car though.

Last month Fisker Automotive ejected its founder and appointed the administrators, sales of Nissan’s Leaf have fallen short of the company’s expectations and lithium-ion battery maker A123 Systems is changing its corporate name to B456 Systems after it was made bankrupt last year and then purchased by Chinese auto parts manufacturer Wanxiang Group.

One of the few positive signs in the sector came from Tesla Motors, who last week announced their first ever profitable quarter after delivering 4,750 Model S vehicles compared to the 4,500 units originally forecast. A profit from a single revenue stream is one thing, but Tesla knows it needs to expand its range of cars, produce a new Roadster and develop a more affordable SUV model below the Model S.

“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. 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.”

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“SP:01 is more than just a sports car,” adds Lam “..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.”

Unlike the design on which it is based, the SP:01’s bodywork is constructed entirely of carbon fibre. The company describes its design as ‘bespoke’, although the front-end looks almost identical to the Series 2 Elise. The compact rear light cluster is reminiscent of high-performance American sports cars of the past, while a transparent inspection window, where the engine would normally reside, displays the vehicle’s battery technology.

Inside, the carbon fibre theme continues, joined by a range of specially selected leather finishes.

The SP:01 goes on sale by end of August, and will be joined by two more high-performance models from the end of 2014.

SEE ALSO: Visit the Detroit Electric website.