In the early years of the 20th century, electric cars were seen by many buyers as preferable to internal-combustion-engine automobiles. Electric cars were easier to start, more reliable and required far less maintenance than their fossil-fueled cousins, and their limited range was far less of an issue than it is today.
By 1912, a company calling itself Detroit Electric had emerged as a market leader, selling as many as 2,000 electric cars per year to clients like Thomas Edison, John D. Rockefeller Jr. and even Clara Ford, wife of Henry Ford.
Though Detroit Electric remained in business through 1939, the popularity of electric cars began waning in the 1920s, as improvements to internal-combustion-engine automobiles made them more reliable and easier to use.
Fans of the electric car can still make the lower-maintenance argument today, and electric automakers like Tesla are seeing increasing interest in their products. Enter the new Detroit Electric, which has announced the reveal of a two-passenger, all-electric sports car at the 2013 Shanghai Auto Show in late April.
Details on the new car (which certainly looks like it's wearing a Lotus body) are sparse, but Detroit Electric promises it will deliver bold styling, outstanding performance, exhilarating handling characteristics and impressive range. Without more specific numbers, however, we can neither agree nor disagree with its claims.
Detroit Electric has some ambitious plans for delivery and expansion, too. Though the car will only be unveiled in late April, plans call for the car to go on sale in select markets by September of 2013, and it plans to introduce two additional high-performance electric cars by the end of 2014.
Detroit Electric CEO Don Graunstadt was quick to point out that the company has signed a long-term lease for its corporate headquarters, to be located on the 18th floor of the Fisher Building in downtown Detroit.
Detroit Electric's logo
Graunstadt calls Detroit Electric the “fourth car manufacturer born out of Detroit,” and says his company is “committed to doing our part for this great revival of Detroit through innovation, entrepreneurship and determination – what we like to call ‘Detroit 2.0’.”
The Detroit Electric brand was revived in 2008 by Albert Lam, who previously headed up the Lotus Engineering Group and Lotus Cars of England. Lam also brings a background in technology, have spent time in management roles at both Apple and Sun Microsystems.
Is the timing right for a startup electric sports car manufacturer? Can Detroit Electric ride the wave of momentum behind Detroit 2.0? Can it stay on target to deliver cars in just six months? We’re sure we’re not alone in asking these questions.