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Look out Tesla: Detroit Electric unveils Lotus-based SP:01, ‘the world’s fastest electric car’

Detroit Electric started building electric cars in 1907, then took a 74-year break. Now, the company is back with what it calls “the world’s fastest pure-electric production car.”

The SP:01 should look familiar because it’s based on the Lotus Elise, just like a certain other electric sports car we can think of: the defunct Tesla Roadster. The choice isn’t too surprising: Detroit Electric patron Albert Lam used to be CEO of Lotus Engineering Group, and Executive Director of Lotus Cars’ British division.

Like the Elise, the SP:01 is mid-engined, with an electric motor producing 200 horsepower and 165 pound-feet of torque replacing the gasoline line-four. It’s powered by a 37-kWh lithium-ion battery pack.

Interestingly, Detroit Electric will offer transmissions with multiple gears. Tesla eventually gave up on that approach because its electric motors’ vast torque tended to break transmissions, and said torque means shifting gears isn’t necessary anyway.

However, Detroit Electric will offer a choice of four or five-speed manual transmissions, or a two-speed automatic.

The Tesla Roadster made more power in its final Sport iteration (299 hp, 295 lb-ft) but, at roughly 2,400 pounds, the SP:01 is lighter.

The two cars pull off nearly identical acceleration times: the SP:01 will do 0-62 mph (0-100 kph) in 3.7 seconds, identical to the Roadster Sport’s time. But with a  155 mph top speed, the SP:01 beats the Roadster Sport’s maximum by 25 mph.

That performance comes at a price, though: Detroit Electric says a full recharge takes 4.3 hours. Range is 180 miles on the European cycle.

On the tech side, Detroit Electric has its own infotainment system called Smartphone Application Management Infotainment (SAMI). It connects a driver’s phone to the car’s sound system and navigation, and can also adjust the interior lighting.

Drivers can also use their phones to check the batteries’ charge, locate their cars in crowded parking lots, and preset the climate controls.

All of that performance and tech comes with a price tag of $135,000. Only 999 SP:01 sports cars will be built and, despite the British chassis, they will be built in the Detroit area. That’s an ambitious plan for one of the oldest names in the business.

Detroit Electric started building electric cars in 1907, when people weren’t sure if smelly, labor-intensive (and very new) gasoline cars were really the way to go. It closed its doors in 1939, after making about 13,000 EVs.

Can Detroit Electric really come back after so many years, and is this modified Lotus the right way to do it? Tell us in the comments.

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Stephen Edelstein
Stephen is a freelance automotive journalist covering all things cars. He likes anything with four wheels, from classic cars…
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