Detroit Electric, an auto brand once favored by Thomas Edison, is mounting a 21st century comeback with electric cars aimed at U.S. soccer moms and Chinese city dwellers.
The company on Monday is expected to announce a partnership with Malaysian auto manufacturer Proton Holdings to introduce an all-electric sedan next year.
Detroit Electric will offer a compact four-door, based on an existing Proton model, with a range of 180 kilometers (110 miles), for between $24,000 and $26,000. An extended-range option will go 320 kilometers, or about 200 miles, and cost $4,000 to $5,000 more. The company also plans to make a hatchback.
The car will use lithium-polymer batteries supplied by a Korean manufacturer and run on an engine developed by Detroit Electric's Netherlands-based engineering team.
The company will market the cars in China, Europe, and the U.S. as an everyday vehicle, comparable in size and performance to popular gasoline cars, said Albert Lam, the CEO of Detroit Electric and the former CEO at British sports car designer Lotus Engineering.
"In 2007, we adopted the Detroit Electric name and revived it because it brings us in line with the vision and essence of electric driving they had," Lam said on Friday. "We want to produce an affordable, practical pure electric car."
In early part of the 20th century, Detroit Electric was one of a number of electric car manufacturers. These cars drove only about 20 miles per hour and had limited range but were considered suitable for city use and, by some, easier to drive than gasoline cars, which required a manual start.
In 1900, 28 percent of all cars produced were electric, but 20 years later the industry was all but dead, according to Michael Brian Schiffer, author of a history of electric cars in the U.S. The original Detroit Electric went out of business in the 1930s.
A century later, nearly all automakers are developing all-electric or hybrid cars aimed at mainstream buyers, which will start coming out next year.
Detroit Electric, though, is taking a different route than established auto companies, choosing a business model that relies on contract manufacturing and a network of partnerships, according to Lam. … Read more