Detroit Electric unveils $135,000 battery-powered sports car

Detroit Electric, a startup electric-car maker reviving a brand that dates back more than a century, unveiled its first model on Wednesday: a $135,000, battery-powered sports car that is to go into limited production in August.

Founded more than five years ago, Detroit Electric enters a still-nascent market that is struggling to find buyers. One of its would-be rivals, Fisker Automotive, a hybrid-electric sports-car company that hasn't built a car since last summer, has hired a law firm to advise on a possible bankruptcy filing.

With a projected top speed of 155 mph, the Detroit Electric SP:01 is "the world's fastest pure-electric sports car," the company says, adding the two-seater has a range of "just under 190 miles" between charges.

The car will be built in the Detroit area at a dedicated plant with an annual capacity of 2,500, the company said Wednesday at a reception at its new headquarters in Detroit's historic Fisher Building.

Detroit Electric plans to build only 999 SP:01's, which it says will be followed by "a new family of all-electric production cars, including two other high-performance models that will enter production by the end of 2014."

The SP:01 appears to borrow heavily from the British-built Lotus Elise -- no surprise considering a number of Detroit Electric executives previously worked for various affiliates of Lotus Cars.

Versions of the Elise have been used by other low-volume carmakers, notably Tesla Motors, which based its $100,000-plus Roadster electric car on the Lotus chassis.

Detroit Electric said the SP:01 was being introduced "following a five-year development and road-test program."

The Detroit Electric brand had been dormant since 1939. Previously, it was used on a series of electric cars built in Detroit from 1907.

The brand was revived in 2007 as a joint venture between China's Youngman Automotive Group -- which tried unsuccessfully to acquire bankrupt Swedish automaker Saab in 2012 -- and a small California-based electric-car company called Zap.

The venture hired Lotus Engineering in 2007 to provide contract design and technical services. In late 2007, Albert Lam, the chief executive of Lotus Engineering, joined the venture as chairman and was named CEO of Detroit Electric in 2008.