Detroit Electric and Proton to Beat Tesla S to the Electric Car Finish Line

Tesla's Model S stole many a headline during its launch last week. But when it comes getting an all-electric sedan onto the market, Tesla's time in the limelight may be brief: Proton and Detroit Electric are planning on putting an electric family car on the market much sooner than Tesla will.

Haven't heard of Detroit Electric? You're not alone: Its a new start-up that's resurrecting a defunct brand of electric car last used a century ago. But being fresh on the scene isn't a problem, according to its CEO Albert Lam the company plans to get its all-electric cars into mass production soon, and on the market by February next year.

The trick is that the Detroit Electric is partnering with Proton, the Malaysia-based company that's already got a mass-production system in place for its conventional gasoline autos. Detroit will use Proton's tooling and production line for its vehicles, but with different stylings than Proton's existing line. In return, Proton will get to sell its own cars in South-East Asia with the Detroit lithium-ion electric power train inside—the incredibly sci-fi sounding Pure Electric Magnetic Flux Motor. This is technology that Detriot's been developing for a while, since last year the company was demonstrating an electric Lotus Elise. That car had a 150kW motor that could push it from 0-62mph in just 4.3 seconds (the supercharged "real" Elise takes 4.6 seconds,) with a range of 325 kilometers and a 6.5-hour "full" charge time. The seeds for the coming Detroit sedan were also to be seen in a modified electric Proton Performa. 

The company plans to get two different vehicles on the road at first, seemingly differentiated by range. The 180-kilometer-range vehicle will sell for $23,000 to $25,000 while the 320-kilometer vehicle will be between $29,000 and $33,000, and they're entirely electric—a much "greener" option than existing hybrids like the Prius. There is no touchscreen dashboard, and the styling of the cars isn't quite up to the Aston-Martin/BMW mashup that is Tesla's Model S, but it looks perfectly acceptable—particularly in red and black "sporty" option (and it's a lot more conventional than the bizarre Aptera). The cars are no speed slouches either, with a top speed of 112mph and a 0-62 time of under eight seconds. The Tesla S can do that in around six seconds.

But that delivery timescale is the most amazing claim coming from the company. It expects to start selling cars in Europe and Asia in February 2009, and expand into the U.S. three to six months later. And the sales targets are equally ambitious: 40,000 sold globally in year one, and 270,000 by 2012. That puts the 2011 production date of the Tesla S and its 20,000-a-year sales rate to shame doesn't it?

[via Detroit Electric, Financial Times, Paultan.org]

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