Google+

BBC Autos

Alt-Green

After 74 years, Detroit Electric preps for a comeback

About the author

Editor of BBC Autos, Matthew is a former editor at Automobile Magazine and the creator of the digital-only Roadtrip Magazine. His automotive and travel writing has appeared in such magazines as Wired, Popular Science, The Robb Report and Caribbean Travel + Life. He lives in Los Angeles with his wonderful wife and four-year-old daughter.

 

The new Detroit Electric sports car

(Detroit Electric Holdings Ltd.)

Who says lightning can’t strike twice?

Between 1907 and 1938, the Detroit Electric Car Company (formerly the Anderson Carriage Company) produced some 13,000 examples of its electric car – a tall, finely appointed carriage powered by a trunk full of lead-acid batteries. The car promised 80 miles of zero-emissions cruising on a full charge, with a top speed of 20mph – pokier than the 40mph Ford Model T, but adequate for city driving. Now, seven decades after the lights went out on Detroit Electric, the company – well, the name, at least – is on the verge of a comeback.

Former Lotus Cars chief Albert Lam revived the Detroit Electric name in 2008, and after a five-year development effort, his gamble seems ready to pay off: The company, from its newly rented headquarters on the 18th floor of Detroit’s landmark Fisher Building, just released this very enticing teaser image. The Lotus Elise-based sports car – which will be the first member of “a diverse family of all-electric production vehicles” – will fill the gap left by the recently departed Tesla Roadster (itself Elise-based).  Lam and company are mum on specs, but a press release promises “bold styling, outstanding performance, exhilarating handling and impressive range.”

Detroit Electric will unveil its two-seater in its namesake city next week, with a global debut at the Shanghai motor show on 20 April. The company aims to open a dedicated factory with an annual capacity of 2500 vehicles – a plan that could bring 180 jobs to Detroit before the end of 2013.

Production of the new roadster is set to commence in August, and Detroit Electric expects to add two additional EVs to its range before the close of 2014.

Visit BBC Autos on 3 April for a better look at Detroit Electric’s vision of the future.

The Detroit Electric automobile, 1925

(Library of Congress)