Detroit Electric Returns, Again

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Schneider said ZAP will demonstrate a Detroit Electric production vehicle next January at the National Auto Dealers Association’s annual convention in New Orleans. That car will go on sale in Q2 (April to June) next year, he said, and has already met “about 90 percent” of the certification requirements to be sold in the US, including crash testing and other safety requirements. (As an electric, it would be exempt from emissions testing.)

It’s a short but tumultuous history for a very old brand with a new lease on life. In less than a year, the company’s ownership has changed, it has shown at least four vehicles, and it plans to sell 5,000 vehicles—of the first year’s total of 30,000—in the United States.

Meanwhile Back in Malaysia

At a press event at a Proton facility in Malaysia, the company offered test drives in three cars converted to electric power: a Proton Savvy subcompact, a Proton Pesona sedan, and a Lotus Elise sports car. The vehicles will use lithium ion batteries, but the secret sauce is an electric motor, invented by chief scientist Frits van Breemen—said to be “four to 12 times lighter” than existing motors—giving it a claimed power-to-weight ratio of 5 watts per kilogram.

Oh, and that converted Lotus Elise? Schneider said it will be manufactured at either Lotus’s plant in Hethel, England, or a plant in Malaysia, in line with gas-engine Elises. The two cars will look the same, but electric versions will carry Detroit Electric badges, while the gasoline originals will continue to be called Lotus. (No Lotus official was available for comment when this article was posted.)

How do other electric-vehicle makers view this latest incarnation of Detroit Electric? Tesla Motors, for instance, might view an electrified Lotus Elise as disturbingly similar to its own electric Roadster—which has some components in common with the Elise. And Lotus played a role in engineering development for the Roadster.

Tesla marketing director Daryl Siry, however, told HybridCars.com simply, “We are not concerned about them as a competitor.”


  • Bryce

    It is interesting to see an old brand name sake being revived for modern electric vehicles, it is kind of fitting.

  • Scott Mackey

    I am very skeptical about anything with Zap in the ownership chain. Read the Wired article referenced in this article and you will see. They seem to be playing with companies, designs (real or not) , and already existing technology to create a big ponzi scheme or shell game that ends with them grabbing investor dollars to line the exec’s pockets.

    That said, I am a sucker for any story the gives a hope that we’ll be tooling around quietly in electric vehicles, especially if it means we can actually go somewhere that isn’t within 50 miles of the house.

  • Anonymous

    I fail to see how any investors are interested in zap. Their products are either unsafe and impractical or unattainable concepts that would never meet their price points. Why doesn’t all this investment go towards companies who have quickly and successfully developed innovative vehicle that actually exist. Aptera and a all electric Smart car sound like good investments compared to Zap.

  • Bryce

    zenn looks like it has great potential. I sure would enjoy hundreds of miles of electric range with a 5 minute charge. It will especially be interesting if big companies license the tech so that it can be released to the masses at cheaper prices.

  • Jason

    I had no idea the Zap company was so scandalous, I’m glad I read that Hype machine article. Sad, I would have like to see them succeed, good thing I didn’t invest

  • John Mansfield

    I met Albert Lam when he was CEO of lotus Engineering. We discussed a project (google: Motorsport University Malaysia) that would include Lotus as a partner.
    Albert was polite and professional. His knowledge of Lotus history and engineering projects were not as extensive as I had expected. However, he was very much a venture capitalist. How revenue could be made and sustained were questions he was very interested in.
    I am not surprised he has left Lotus and gone out on his own.
    ZAP are very much into getting investors on board. Albert under the Detroit Electric banner will I’m sure have a compelling business case in his hand to encourage people and institutions to hop on the roller coaster ride. I hope they are not disappointed. Ecologically derived power is a noble venture.
    John Mansfield

  • Shines

    Ecologically derived power is a noble venture. All the more reason to be very sceptical and avoid dealings with an ignoble company like ZAP.

  • PJKBP

    Just another Chinese company hiding behind a American Brand Name.

  • thomatt12

    I agree that it is interesting to see an old brand name being revived for modern electric vehicles. Let us just wait and see what they can contribute to the market, may it be hydrogen gas saver cars, hybrid, or electric cars. It will surely be exciting.