Detroit Electric SP:01: The Next Evolution in Electric Sportcars or Too Little, Too Late?

I’m confused.  Hasn’t this car happened already?  A few years ago, I remember driving a little all electric roadster that hit 60 mph in about three-and-a-half seconds and looked a lot like a Lotus Elise.  It’s true, at first glance, the Detroit Electric SP:01 appears awfully similar to a Tesla Roadster, which is logical as both are based on the Lotus Elise/Exige platform.  But, according the Alex Lam’s Detroit Electric, their soon-to-hit-dealers SP:01 is an evolutionary step above Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster.

Here are the basics on the Detroit Electric SP:01.  The SP:01 is an all electric limited edition roadster with a 999 car production run built in Detroit.  The SP:01 has a top speed of 155 mph and will hit 62 in 3.7 seconds.  With the Tesla topping out at 125 mph, Detroit Electric claims the SP:01 is the world’s fastest electric car, although, that will change if the nearly 200 mph Rimac makes it to production.  

With a carbon fiber body and purpose-designed lightweight 37 kWh batteries, the SP:01 weighs in at 2,354 pounds.  The electric motor puts out 201 bhp and 166 pound feet of torque through a standard four-speed manual gearbox (as opposed to the Tesla Roadster’s single-speed trans).  A five-speed manual or two-speed auto are available as options.  At the end of its 180 mile range, on a 240-volt-at-30-amp charging station, the SP:01 will fully charge in just over four hours.  

Inside, the car is awash in carbon fiber and leather trim.  The SP:01 has an interesting infotainment system.  “SAMI” (Smartphone Application Managed Infotainment system), in addition to making phone calls, gives the driver access to the SP:01’s functions such as music, sat nav, interior lights, as well as to the car’s system status (level of battery charge, range to recharge and other vehicle telemetry).

SAMI can also act as a remote control through a cellular connection to turn on the SP:01’s climate control and locate the car.  Kind of a smart car, “find my iCar” kind of thing.  That is actually pretty cool and undeniably useful.   
After production begins in August on the 999 SP:01s, Detroit Electric plans to debut another two high performance electric models.  The goal is to produce about 2,500 units per year in the Wayne County, Michigan factory.  Base price for the Detroit Electric SP:01 is $135,000, and it comes with a 3 year 30,000 mile warranty.  While the Tesla Roadster is a near twin and has been out for years longer, only time will tell if the Detroit Electric SP:01 is the next evolution or too little, too late. For more info, check out the press release below.

Press Release:
– Limited edition SP:01 two-seat electric sports car is unveiled in Detroit
– Fastest pure-electric production car on the market: top speed is 155 mph and 0-62 mph (0-100km/h) in just 3.7 seconds
– Striking, lightweight and strong carbon-fibre body
– Electric motor generates 201 bhp (150 kW) and 166 lb ft of torque
– Range from a single charge will exceed 180 miles
– Each SP:01 will come with a three-year, 30,000 mile warranty
– First pure electric sports car to be built in the Motor City
– Production to start in August 2013

Emissions-free motoring has a new high-performance champion following the unveiling today of the Detroit Electric SP:01, a limited-edition, two-seat pure-electric sports car that sets new standards for performance and handling in the electric vehicle (EV) segment. Boasting an impressive 155 mph (249 km/h) top speed and covering the 0-62mph (0-100km/h) sprint in a blistering 3.7 seconds, the SP:01 is the world‟s fastest pure-electric production car.

The new SP:01 was launched under the brand’s mantra of “Pure Electric Excitement” and was revealed at Detroit Electric’s new headquarters in the Fisher Building in downtown Detroit. Just 999 examples will be built at Detroit Electric‟s new production facility in Wayne County, Michigan, with cars sold worldwide through a network of specialist retail partners.

The SP:01’s exceptional performance is owed in large part to its excellent power-to-weight ratio. The rear-wheel-drive SP:01 features a compact, mid-mounted 201 bhp electric motor (delivering 166 lb ft of torque), a lightweight, purpose-designed battery pack and all-new carbon-fibre bodywork. Total weight is just 2,354 lb, contributing to the SP:01’s superior driving dynamics and class-leading handling.

The vehicle is based on a strong yet lightweight aluminium platform, and is being launched following a five-year development and road-test programme. As well as the all-new carbon-fibre bodywork, similar to that used in Formula 1 vehicle chassis, the SP:01 also features specialised performance-tuned suspension, steering and brake systems to provide class-leading ride and handling characteristics.

To deliver instantaneous torque for breath-taking acceleration, the SP:01’s innovative powertrain creates an electromagnetic field around the rotor shaft, which then spins at varying speeds to drive the wheels. Drivers can select one of four gear ratios for optimal acceleration, but unlike a manual shift in a conventional car, there is little need to change gear regularly to ensure brisk progress.

With an impressive energy storage capacity of 37 kWh, the battery gives the SP:01 a range of almost 190 miles between recharges, when tested to the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) standard. Detroit Electric’s home charging unit will enable drivers to charge their SP:01, with full charge achieved in 4.3 hours. Rigorously tested by Detroit Electric for use in the SP:01, the battery technology also has been deployed successfully in other highly demanding applications, notably in helicopters and submarines.

“The SP:01 will be exclusive, luxurious and technologically advanced,” said Albert Lam, Detroit Electric‟s Chairman and Group CEO. “It is a milestone in the history of the Detroit Electric brand, but also a significant development for the international EV sector. The car will allow us to demonstrate to the world our ability to build an exciting and innovative product, one that displays outstanding performance coupled with strong green credentials, and which delivers an exhilarating driving experience.”

Emotive design
The SP:01’s bespoke bodywork is constructed entirely of carbon fibre. Styled by Detroit Electric‟s Head of Design, Jerry Chung, the SP:01‟s angular lines and muscular stance give the car a bold, imposing design while also optimising aerodynamic efficiency.

The one-piece front panel features a sharply contoured bonnet and angular front fenders with imposing air-intakes to emphasise the car’s power and prowess. The compact rear light cluster is reminiscent of high-performance American sports cars of the past, while the integrated side cooling ducts enhance the car’s distinctive profile. To accentuate the SP:01’s pure electric credentials, a transparent inspection window displays the vehicle‟s impressive battery technology.

The interior of the vehicle hints at the essence of the Detroit Electric brand by combining luxurious refinement with advanced technology – highlighted through the use of carbon- fibre and specially selected leather finishes.

Unique SAMI infotainment system
The cabin of the SP:01 is packed with innovation, being the first to use smartphone applications to manage the complete in-car infotainment system. Named “SAMI” (Smartphone Application Managed Infotainment system), SAMI provides access to a wide range of functions, including music player, satellite navigation, interior lighting adjust and vehicle systems status – such as the level of battery charge, range to recharge and other vehicle telemetry. It can, of course, also be used to make mobile phone calls.

The inspiration does not just stop here. SAMI can also act as a remote control unit (via GSM), enabling the user to locate the vehicle, turn on the climate control system and check the charge status.

More than just a sports car
“Our research engineers at Detroit Electric have taken steps to break the mould,” adds Mr Lam. “SP:01 is more than just a sports car, it is a mobile energy unit, allowing the user to use its stored battery energy to power not just the car but even an entire home. SP:01 is equipped with bi-directional charge and discharge capability, allowing it to release its stored electrical energy to power a home.”

The SP:01’s bi-directional charge and discharge feature is made possible through the patented Detroit Electric home charging and power back-up unit, named “360 Powerback”. It is a smart home-charging and power back-up unit that enables the SP:01’s battery to be charged at the rate of 8 kWh (240V@32A). This smart unit can also detect any power failure of the grid and provide the option to the user – via SAMI and the GSM network – to instruct the vehicle to restore power to the home using its stored energy. “360 Powerback is the next level of innovation and shows our determination to provide additional value proposition through our EVs, uniquely elevating us from others in the segment,” added Mr Lam.

Power preserved
An all-disc braking system, coupled with ABS (anti-lock braking) and ESP (Electronic Stability Control) is fitted as standard, ensuring excellent stopping power. But it is the SP:01’s Regenerative Braking technology that sets the car apart, underpinning superb stopping performance while ensuring greater energy efficiency. The car’s energy recovery mechanism uses the motor as a generator, recovering kinetic energy when acceleration is interrupted and using it to recharge the vehicle’s battery packs, while imitating the retardation characteristics of a gasoline engine.

Production and pedigree
The SP:01 sports car is the first production vehicle to be marketed under the Detroit Electric brand since 1939. On sale in many of Detroit Electric’s target markets by end of August, the SP:01 will herald a new family of all-electric production cars, including two other high-performance models that will enter production by the end of 2014.

The price of SP:01 starts at $135,000 USD, and will vary according to specification and local taxes.

Each SP:01 will come with a three-year, 30,000-mile warranty with an optional extension for the battery to five years and 50,000 miles.

The SP:01 will be produced at the new Detroit Electric production site in Wayne County, Michigan. The dedicated facility will have an annual capacity of 2,500 vehicles and create over 180 manufacturing and sales-related jobs over the next year.

The original electric car innovators, Detroit Electric began life in 1906 and established itself as the market leader and most prolific manufacturer of electric cars. Detroit Electric went on to make some 13,000 vehicles by 1939 and holds the electric vehicle production world record for the twentieth century.

Author: Nick Glasnovich

Founder & Executive Editor of

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  1. I definitely don’t think it’s too late for an all electric sports car. When something like this first came out years ago, people weren’t to interested in hybrid or evs at all. Now they are becoming more and more popular. I think it’s a great idea to try again and it’s the perfect time to try.

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    • I agree that there is most assuredly room in the market for another EV sportscar, I just don’t necessarily think it should look this much like a Tesla or a Lotus. Use a Lotus chassis, they’re great. But, spend a bit more effort and give yourself a more unique look.

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