"Detroit" Electric Threatens Malaysian EV Invasion

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
detroit electric threatens malaysian ev invasion

No, they’re not brushing off the old 1907 plans, so Zap’s Xebra won’t be the target competition. Financial Times reports that the reborn EV firm has moved on from its Zap Alias escapade (due, uh, now to quote RF) “to buddy up” with Malaysian OEM giant Proton. The cunning plan? Sell Protons with DE’s drivetrain, for cheap and cheerful “real car” EVs. “We believe in an affordable, practical, everyday electric car,” says Detroit Electric’s (it’s so hard to type that without scare quotes) Albert Lam. “It’s not a high-end vehicle we are targeting or a short-range city car.” The one wacky part of this otherwise seemingly sensible plan? They plan to sell them in the US.

A base model with about 110 miles of EV-only range (no hybrids or range extenders here) will set you back a theoretical $23K-$25K, says Lam. Does that include the government tax break, sir? Maybe, maybe not. But Lam (former Lotus Engineering CEO) says he will also sell you a 200 mile-range model for $29K to $33K. Does that depend on the gas prices, sir? Again, no answer. But they do say they’re hitting European and Asian markets next February, with the a US launch envisioned for later in 2010. They even say they expect to make 40,000 sales globally next year, and hit 270,000 annual sales by 2012. Of course, there are a few issues . . .

Unlike other EV firms (cough, Tesla), Detroit Electric is integrated into Proton’s facilities in Detr—uh, Kuala Lumpur. And though this saves on infrastructure investment, Proton isn’t ponying up all the cash for the venture. DE was launched a year ago with $100M, and they’re still talking to “two to three major funding sources” about another $100M. Yikes! And then there’s just one other issue, which Lam acknowledged to FT. Namely that the Detroit brand name “had mixed results” when the company invited prospective US dealers to test-drive its cars last year. Uh-oh. And though they should be critical of these newcomers, “prospective dealers” should probably find out for how much of the federal plug-in tax credit these would qualify. After all, the tax credit was enacted to prove that anyth—sorry, the Volt—will sell at the right price. Maybe it will take a sub-$20K Malaysian EV hatchback to actually prove the point. Or, dare I dream it, a half-price Tesla Roadster?

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  • Richard Chen Richard Chen on Apr 02, 2009

    The latest press releases don't mention anything about Zap being involved with Detroit Electric. Is that so? Zap's web site doesn't mention Detroit Electric, either. Just the usual Xebras, electrified kei-class vans, and the CGI Alias.

  • Shakes Shakes on Jun 28, 2010

    I've got an early Mitsubishi-based Proton and it's actually really good. Eighteen years old and all the electrical extras (ie electric mirrors, windows, c/l) still work perfectly, and it flies up the motorway at 85mph in a totally confident manner. I believe this is the car that Jeremy Clarkson called one of the worst cars ever made. No way, man! Possibly the car with the worst image, but who cares about that when you're only paying £195 to buy it, with 12 month's MOT thrown in? If modern Protons are as competent and rugged as my original, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them to anyone.

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