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Detroit Electric gets $1.8 billion investment from China to recreate Tesla’s strategy

While the company wouldn’t admit it, Detroit Electric’s strategy is exactly based on Tesla’s. Like Tesla’s original Roadster, the company is making an electric roadster based on the Lotus Elise. After the low-volume high-end vehicle, the startup plans to move to a higher volume luxury sedan and a SUV, not unlike Tesla with the Model S and X.

Now the company has found a partner to finance those plans. They signed today a joint venture deal with China’s Far East Smarter Energy Group for a total investment of $1.8 billion dollars.

Detroit Electric today has little to do with its predecessor of the same name, which pioneered electric vehicles in 1907. Although the company still has offices in Detroit, the headquarters are now located in the Netherlands, and the cars are being assembled in the U.K., which is convenient considering it’s where Lotus is based.

$370 million of the total investment will go directly to the company’s European operations – primarily its Leamington Spa factory in the UK to start production of the SP: 01, its Lotus Elise-based electric roadster (pictured above and below).

The vehicle, which is expected to cost over $100,000, is equipped with a 37 kWh battery pack which allows, according to the company, for 179 miles (288 km) of NEDC rated range. We can expect the EPA-rated range to be closer to 140 miles (225 km).

Detroit Electric claims the 0-60 mph acceleration will be achieved in 3.9 seconds.

The powertrain is disappointing when you consider that the original Tesla Roadster had ~220 miles (350 km) of range on a single charge and now Tesla is offering a battery pack upgrade for ~340 miles (547 km) of range.

But the Tesla Roaster is out of production and fairly rare on the used car market, so maybe they will find new buyers. It’s not a bad-looking car.

The investment will enable them to bring the vehicle to production by the end of the year, according to the company.

Albert Lam, a former Apple and Lotus executive who now heads Detroit Electric, said about the announcement of the joint venture with the company’s new Chinese partners:

“We have been working exceptionally hard over a long period to establish this joint venture and to secure funding for our ambitious new electric vehicle programme. I am delighted to be able to announce this new joint venture which represents a significant boost to vehicle manufacturing and the EV industry in Europe and an important new step towards bringing our family of EVs to market.”

The family of new EVs will include a SUV, expected as soon as next year, and a sedan for 2020. At that point, Detroit Electric aims for an overall production of 100,000 vehicles per year.

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