Detroit Electric: Exported to… Europe?

detroit-electric-sp-01

Detroit Electric.

If you don’t know anything else about the company, you might think it could be a local utility that provides electricity to Detroit homes. It could also be an electrical repair company that serves residential and commercial needs in the Detroit area…or it could even be a Detroit startup electric automaker.

With a name like that we certainly assume we know at least one thing about the company: That it does its bidding in the great city of Detroit.

Except in this case, it doesn’t. Believe it or not, electric carmaker Detroit Electric doesn’t even do business in the United States of America.

Detroit Electric is one of the oldest names in the auto business and can trace its roots back to 1907. The company made 13,000 electric vehicles in Detroit but succumbed to the pressure of the internal combustion engine in 1939.

The company all but disappeared for the next seven decades, until a group of Lotus executives purchased the name in 2008 and re-established the company in The Netherlands.

Detroit Electric briefly entertained the idea of building in Detroit but ultimately decided to enter production in the United Kingdom. Its first car, the SP:01, is a Lotus Elise fitted with an all-electric drivetrain. If that sounds familiar, it’s because Tesla did the same thing to create the Roadster.

The SP:01 is a little different. It has a 285-horsepower electric motor that can propel the car from 0-to-60 in 3.7 seconds and on to a top speed of 155 mph. That’s pretty basic fare for an electric sports car, but here’s where things get weird: There’s also a choice of transmissions.

A one-speed automatic is standard, but a twin-speed auto and a 6-speed manual are also optional. Electric cars don’t need multiple forward gears because they produce full power regardless of how fast the motor is turning. This makes me think of the paddle shifters in my Legacy. I know my car’s CVT doesn’t allow for gear changes, but it can be fun to pretend nonetheless.

There’s no other car on the market, that I’m aware of, that uses an electric drivetrain combined with a 6-speed manual. It could be fun, though we may never know here in the States. 

The SP:01 is in production now and will be offered in South Korea, South Africa, China, Norway, and more. We’ll let you know if Detroit Electric ever finds its way back home.

Would you be interested in driving the Detroit Electric SP:01 if it was available here?

-tgriffith

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