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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7 Comments

  • Jonas Grumby

    A sporty Tesla coupe under $25000 would sell like hot cakes but that won't come until a couple of years. This Pronto car is ugly. Now if DE can redesign it for their own brand to make it look sleek and sporty, then more people (not just the cheap ones) will be enticed to buy it.

  • Jonas Grumby

    A sporty Tesla coupe under $25000 would sell like hot cakes but that won't come until a couple of years. This Pronto car is ugly. Now if DE can redesign it for their own brand to make it look sleek and sporty, then more people (not just the cheap ones) will be enticed to buy it.

  • Jonas Grumby

    A sporty Tesla coupe under $25000 would sell like hot cakes but that won't come until a couple of years. This Pronto car is ugly. Now if DE can redesign it for their own brand to make it look sleek and sporty, then more people (not just the cheap ones) will be enticed to buy it.

  • Guest

    I believe you need to correct: "It expects to start selling cars in Europe and Asia in February 2009...."

  • Kit Eaton

    @Shauna. Nothing. It's simply a brand that was owned by a Detroit-based electric car maker until 1939 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D.... Much as "Land Rover" now has nothing to do with the defunct Rover brand of cars.

    @Andrew. Yes, there are some fascinating tie-ups there. But it seems the vehicle production side (with the billion-dollar issue of production lines and safety compliance testing etc.) is all that Proton's up to--the electric parts seem to be coming from DE.

  • Andrew Kelsey

    If memory serves Proton own Lotus and therefore have access to all of their intellectual property. By huge coincidence Lotus just happens to be building the Tesla Roadster. Elon must be talking to his lawyers right now.

  • Shauna Nicholson

    From their site: "(DE) is in a prime position to realize these opportunities; thought ready products, low cose and high quality Asia-based manufacturing..."

    So what exactly is "Detroit" about Detroit Electric?