• 2016 Detroit Electric SP:01

LISTEN 15:59

Have you ever heard of Detroit Electric? If you answered in the affirmative, you get a cookie, but we’ll probably have to mash it up and feed it to you with a spoon because the automaker kicked the bucket way back in 1939. Now, however, Detroit Electric is back, and it’s bringing with it a new all-electric sports car. It’s called the SP:01, and it’s based on a Lotus, bears loads of the latest EV technology, runs a 0-to-60 time under four seconds, and a boasts a very feathery curb weight.

Here’s a bit of background for those of you still left in the dark. Back in the early 1900s, the ICE-powered vehicle was far less popular than it is now. EVs were the preferred choice over the noisy, polluting, gas-powered alternatives. It was at this time that Detroit Electric thrived, with up to 2,000 electric cars sold annually by 1910.

However, over time, cheap gas and inventions like the electric starter and muffler pushed the EV to the sidelines, eventually unplugging it altogether.

But in case you didn’t notice, the electric vehicle is back, and in a big way. Now, five years after rising from the ashes, Detroit Electric is getting ready to unleash a sports car that the company hopes will “spearhead a diverse family of all-electric productions cars” for the future.

But times have changed a bit since 1910, which begs the question – how will the SP:01 shape up alongside rivals in the increasingly competitive modern EV marketplace?

Updated 07/16/2015: Detroit Electric finally revealed full specifications on its new SP:01. Read on for the details.

Continue reading to find out more about the Detroit Electric SP:01.


2016 Detroit Electric SP:01 High Resolution Exterior
- image 500821
2016 Detroit Electric SP:01 High Resolution Exterior
- image 500825
2016 Detroit Electric SP:01 High Resolution Exterior
- image 500815

One glance at the SP:01, and you’d be forgiven for thinking you were looking at some defunct Lotus project car. That’s because the thing has deep roots in the famed British sports car manufacturer, even beyond the obvious Elise underpinnings and recycled architecture.

In order to build each SP:01, Detroit Electric must first take delivery of a complete Elise rolling chassis from Lotus, including the fully independent front and rear suspension assemblies and bonded-aluminum chassis.

As it turns out, Detroit Electric’s new boss, Albert Lam, was at one time the CEO of Lotus Engineering Group and the executive director of Lotus Cars of England. In fact, in order to build each SP:01, Detroit Electric must first take delivery of a complete Elise rolling chassis from Lotus, including the fully independent front and rear suspension assemblies and bonded-aluminum chassis.

That means you can rest assured the car starts from a very good place mechanically, with a low curb weight and high rigidity.

On top of these world-class sports-car bones is custom carbon-fiber body panels, as penned by Detroit Electric’s Head of Design, Jerry Chung. Detroit Electric claims the shape saw some tweaking for aerodynamic stability at speed.

All told, it’s hard to not see a lot of Lotus in this thing, with its short, pointed nose, curvaceous fenders, long sweeping roofline, and tasteful rear spoiler. And that’s not a bad thing by any means – Lotus makes some very pretty cars, and I believe the old “if it ain’t broke” adage would be appropriate here. In my opinion, it’s just different enough to give the impression of being unique, but not too far from the mark originally supplied by Britain.

Dimensionally, the SP:01 is almost identical to the Exige and Elise, with a 3,880-mm (152.76-inch) length, 1,751-mm (68.94-inch) width and 1,117-mm (43.98-inch) height.

There are seven paint options to choose from, including blue, white, silver, black, red, orange and green. There are also five lightweight wheel designs available, all of which are interesting. These include the 10-spoke Graphite Pro in gloss palladium grey, 12-spoke Silver Pro in sparkle silver, the funky looking Anderson Diamond in two-tone black-and-aluminum look, 12-spoke Anderson Satin in satin black, and a wavy-looking 8-spoke Anderson Gloss finished in gloss gold.

Options include a graphite textile carbon-fiber finish for the rear spoiler, battery cover, and rear diffuser element. Both hard top and soft top iterations will be available.

You can create your own custom SP:01 with the online configurator here (just click the “Configurator” link at the top, then hit “Get Started”).

Exterior Dimensions

Length 3,880 MM (152.75 Inches)
Width 1,751 MM (68.93 Inches)
Height 1,117 MM (43.97 Inches)
Wheelbase 90.6 inches
Curb Weight 2,354 pounds


2016 Detroit Electric SP:01 Exterior
- image 500826

Much like the exterior, the SP:01’s interior will have roughly the same layout and look as a Lotus Elise and Exige, down to the shape and placement of the gauge cluster and climate control vents. It’s not terribly elaborate or exciting, but it gets the job done.

The SP:01 comes with bolstered sports seats that are finished in either leather or Alcantara upholstery.

But whereas the Lotus models come with a cabin space that could be considered a bit spartan, eschewing creature comforts and high-tech in favor of a lower curb weight, the SP:01 adds a few nice features that cater to both well-coddled backsides and nerdy predilections.

First, the materials. The SP:01 comes with bolstered sports seats that are finished in either leather or Alcantara upholstery. The color scheme includes both one- and two-tone designs, while the door trim, dashboard trim and doorsills are all customized. Aluminum is also used for the trim. However, this is still a sports car we’re talking about, so don’t expect exorbitant levels of luxury.

Next, the tech. Detroit Electric is particularly vocal about its new Smartphone Application Managed Infotainment system, or SAMI for short. This setup allows drivers and passengers access to features like music players and satellite navigation while also providing data on vehicle systems like battery level, range and recharge time. You can tweak the interior lighting and view key status points for the vehicle’s operation, all via swipes and taps on the centrally mounted touchscreen. SAMI will also allow owners to locate the vehicle in a crowded parking lot and remotely operate the climate control.

To top off the battery pack, the SP:01 comes with a smart charging system that draws power at a rate of 8-kW (32-amps at 240-VAC). What’s more, it’s equipped with something called “bi-directional charge and discharge capability” via a 360-Powerback unit, which basically means that if you have enough juice on board, the car can be used as a mobile battery, charging anything you want. That includes providing electricity to individual devices, a home, and even other EVs. The system is quite clever too – if, for example, the car detects a power failure in the local grid while plugged in at your house, SAMI will provide the user with the option to restore power using the onboard stored energy.

A vehicle tracking system is an available option. Both right- and left-hand-drive configurations will be produced.


2016 Detroit Electric SP:01 Exterior
- image 500822

Considering it has underpinnings from Lotus, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the SP:01 is a RWD, mid-engine sports car. Detroit Electric will offer two separate iterations: the entry-level Pure model and a higher-spec Performance model.

Making the go on both is a 120-kW motor hooked up to a 37-kWh battery. Instead of a traditional cogs-and-gears transmission, the Pure model has only a single speed, while the Performance has manual mode selector, presumably offering sharper response.

Top speed is rated at 106 mph in the Pure and 155 mph in the Performance, while both have a NEDC-rated range of 179 miles.

Both models lay down 207 pound-feet of torque, while the Pure model has 204 horsepower. Meanwhile, the Performance model sees output jump to 286 horsepower.

That might seem like a pittance next to the nearly 700 horsepower laid out by the top-spec 2015 Tesla Model S P85D, but here’s the thing – each Tesla weighs almost as much as a small moon, while the SP:01 is based on a Lotus. That means all that carbon fiber and aluminum in the SP:01 goes a long way towards shedding mass, with the final curb weight looking like 2,546 pounds for the Pure model and a slightly beefier 2,590 pounds for the Performance model. For an electric car, complete with battery packs and a sense of eco-friendly smugness, that’s quite impressive indeed.

That low weight translates into respectable performance figures despite the relatively low output, with a 0-to-60 run taking 5.3 seconds in the Pure model and 3.7 seconds in the Performance model. Top speed is rated at 106 mph in the Pure and 155 mph in the Performance, while both have a NEDC-rated range of 179 miles.

Detroit Electric says it wants the SP:01 to be a stellar handler as well. To that end, the wheels are staggered front to back, with 16-inchers up front and 17-inchers in the rear. Rubber is sized at 195/50 fore and 225/45 aft. And considering the thing only weighs about 2,500 pounds and comes with the bones of a Lotus, it shouldn’t be a total pig in the corners.

On paper, it’s a nice package for a sports car, electrified or no. But Detroit Electric has very lofty ambitions, once saying it wanted the SP:01 to be the fastest pure-electric production car in the world, a claim that Tesla may take issue with.

Drivetrain Specifications

Pure Performance
Top Speed 106 MPH 155 MPH
Max Torque 206 LB-FT 206 LB-FT
Power 204 HP 286 HP
0 to 60 mph 5.3 seconds 3.7 seconds
Mode selector single speed manual


2016 Detroit Electric SP:01 High Resolution Exterior
- image 500819

There’s no easy way of putting this, so I’ll just come out with it: the SP:01 will start at $135,000, a number that could very well increase with options and local taxes. It’s unclear whether that figure will be attached to the entry-level Pure model or the higher-spec Performance model, but either way, this thing won’t be cheap.

At least Detroit Electric will also offer a 3-year, 30,000-mile warranty with an optional extension to cover the battery for five years or 50,000 miles.

Standard equipment for the Performance model includes the following: the iCAR communications package (exact details currently unavailable), Bluetooth/WiFi connectivity, a navigation system, 8.4-inch touchscreen, five-speed driving mode selector, a front bumper charge indicator light, limited-edition numbering plate, custom embroidered door mats, a black leather console, LED front daytime running lamps, LED taillights, driver and passenger airbags, blue brake calipers, ABS and climate control.

Standard features for the Pure model are currently unavailable.

For those who absolutely must have those bespoke features, Detroit Electric claims that local dealers can help customers with “anything else” they’d like specifically configured on their SP:01.

Detroit Electric will build just 999 units. Production will take place in Warwickshire in the U.K., with sales beginning by the end of this year in North America, the U.K., Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.


2015 Tesla Model S P85D

2015 Tesla Model S P85D High Resolution Exterior
- image 572259

Ah yes, the standard, go-to all-electric sports car, the preeminent herald of lightening-bolt-powered performance, the flagship of Tesla and one of the most talked about cars of the decade. This is what the SP:01 will be butting heads with when it finally hits dealerships, and placed side-by-side, it’s hard to not give the nod to the Tesla. Sure, it’s a big heavy sedan, but for almost half the price, you get more range and nearly as much acceleration. It’ll also probably be more comfortable and come with more standard features. For about $25,000 less than a SP:01, you can opt for the top-spec P85D Tesla, which will simply demolish the SP:01 in a straight line. The only real question that remains is what happens when the road gets twisty.

Read our full review here.

2016 Audi R8 e-tron

2016 Audi R8 E-Tron High Resolution Exterior
- image 619559

We’ve been waiting for Audi to offer an all-electric version of the R8 for six years now, and finally, it looks like it may actually happen. The latest news pins this EV as bearing rear-mounted electric motors that spin the back wheels with 456 horsepower and 679 pound-feet of torque, enabling a 0-to-60 time under four seconds and a top speed of at least 155 mph. Advanced torque vectoring technologies will help it turn, while materials like carbon fiber will keep weight low. Unfortunately, Audi won’t offer this R8 to U.S. customers, but deliveries should begin elsewhere sometime next year.

Read our full review here.


2016 Detroit Electric SP:01 High Resolution Exterior
- image 500817

Detroit Electric likes to tout the slogan “Pure Electric Performance,” and looking at the SP:01 on paper, I’d say mission accomplished. It looks good, has the right parts to be a decent little speed machine, and most impressively, weighs just 2,500 pounds. I also really like how the car will literally power your house in a blackout.

I also really like how the car will literally power your house in a blackout.

It’s all cool, modern stuff. But once you start digging, the problems rear their ugly heads.

First, there’s the problem of Tesla. The Model S is well established as the vehicle to beat in the electric car market, and at $130,000, I don’t really know how the SP:01 will win. Perhaps those looking for a more traditional sports car platform (that is, a lightweight, 2-door, 2-seater coupe) could be drawn away from their local Tesla dealership, but when it comes down to it, the Model S is simply a better car, even if it is a sedan.

Next, it’s hard not to consider this as much more than a Tesla Roadster reboot. In case you were unaware, Tesla’s first model also saw an electric motor stuffed into a Lotus shell. Sure, it did a lot of things right, but I struggle to see the point in springing for the Detroit Electric version, even if it is newer.

As the first commercial product offering of many, this model is exceedingly important for Detroit Electric, which might explain the company’s unwillingness to take excessive risks (like, I don’t know, bless it with 500 horsepower and Le Mans-style aerodynamics). Hopefully, that won’t mean the SP:01 gets lost in Tesla’s long, dark shadow.

My suggestion? Put this thing on a track, and let’s see what a 2,500-pound all-electric sports car is really capable of.

  • Leave it
    • Very expensive
    • Difficult to justify next to a Tesla Model S
    • Hard to see as too much more than a Tesla Roadster reboot

Updated History

Updated 10/27/2014: Detroit Electric revealed the final exterior design for its new SP:01 sports car set to be put on sale in 2015. Unlike the prototype unveiled in 2013, the production form will feature a new fastback configuration and will feature a large rear wing to reduce lift and improve downforce at higher speeds. Click past the jump for the full details.

Jonathan Lopez
Jonathan Lopez
About the author

Press Release

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.

2016 Detroit Electric SP:01 High Resolution Exterior
- image 500820

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.

2016 Detroit Electric SP:01 Exterior
- image 500826

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

2016 Detroit Electric SP:01 Exterior
- image 500822

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

2016 Detroit Electric SP:01 Exterior
- image 500829

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 Country, 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.

Press Release - October 27, 2014

The final exterior design of Detroit Electric’s all-new, pure electric two-seater sports car, the SP:01, is revealed today as the company gears up for production.

The lightweight, limited-edition SP:01 will be the world’s fastest production electric sports car when it goes on sale in Asia, Europe and North America, starting in 2015. Revealed as a prototype at the 2013 Shanghai Motor Show, the design of SP:01 has been subtly updated to further improve the vehicle’s aerodynamic performance, ahead of the start of production at a new facility in the UK later this year.

The most striking element of the design is the bold new fastback configuration, which replaces the prototype’s flying buttresses on either side of the rear window. The exterior design has been optimised using computational fluid dynamics (CFD) analysis to provide enhanced airflow and reduce turbulence, for maximum performance and stability.

A large sculptural rear wing and an under-body diffuser have been incorporated to reduce lift and improve downforce at higher speeds. The changes to the production vehicle’s aerodynamics are intended to deliver improved on-the-limit road-holding and ensure rewarding and accessible dynamics.

A host of aesthetic and functional enhancements to the exterior design accompany the aerodynamic enhancements. For example, the front air intake and outlet ducts on the bonnet have been reshaped to optimise airflow to the HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system.

The vehicle’s innovative battery packs have been clad in a protective composite casing which forms an integral part of the vehicle’s structure. This improves the SP:01’s torsional rigidity and provides an extremely robust barrier to protect the batteries from punctures in the event of an accident.

Jerry Chung, Head of Design at Detroit Electric, said: “The final design of SP:01 incorporates signature Detroit Electric design DNA, carried over from the prototype model we revealed last year. Coupled with many motorsport visual cues, the new fastback design, bold face and sharp contours evoke the company’s vision of pure electric performance.”

The changes to SP:01’s design ensure that it will deliver on its promise to set new standards for performance and handling in the EV segment. Its high-power electric motor will propel the car to an impressive 155 mph (249 km/h) top speed and a 0-60mph time of just 3.7 seconds.

View the full press release Hide press release
Press release
What do you think?
Show Comments
Car Finder: