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Detroit Electric in talks with Chinese officials over technology sharing, market access

China has emerged as the world’s No 1 market for electric sedans, with sales surging 162pc to 170,000 vehicles in the first half

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 October, 2016, 9:32pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 October, 2016, 10:59pm

United States electric carmaker Detroit Electric is in talks with Chinese officials about gaining greater market access in exchange for transferring technology, as it aims to ramp up exports of its latest high-performance roadster to the world’s biggest electric vehicle market.

“We are in negotiations with Chinese authorities for a potential collaboration that will bring the cutting-edge technologies, for instance those related to the battery, to the country,” Detroit Electric chairman Albert Lam said.

Lam, a former executive director of British sports car manufacturing giant Lotus Group International, made the comments during a ceremony to unveil its roadster SP:01 in Hong Kong.

The SP:01 sports car is assembled in England on a Lotus Elise aluminium chassis with carbon fibre. It has a range of 288 kilometres on a single charge and weighs about 1,100 kilograms, making it the lightest high-performance electric sedan worldwide.

The Hong Kong dealer of the roadster, which started taking orders from Thursday, said the model is targeted towards a more premium end of the market than rival Tesla, whose flagship Model S sedan ranks as the best-selling electric vehicle in the city.

“We will be selling it [SP:01] at a price of over HK$1 million,”said Richard Lee, chief executive of Wo Kee Hong Group, which is also the sole distributor of Ferrari and Maserati vehicles in Hong Kong.

By comparison, Tesla’s Model S with a 60 kilowatt-hour battery starts at HK$579,000, and its high-performance car model Tesla Roadster begins at HK$988,000.

Detroit Electric said its roadster was able to accelerate from 0 to 100km/h in 3.9 seconds, with a top speed of 250 km/h, outstripping around 201 km/h for a standard model Tesla Roadster.

There were 6,167 electric vehicles registered in Hong Kong as of the end of August, up from fewer than 100 in 2010, according to the Environmental Protection Department. About 99 per cent of the city’s 525,000 private cars are petrol-engine powered.

Europe, mainland China and Hong Kong are likely to be the top markets for high-end electric vehicles, according to Detroit Electric, which can trace its roots back to 1907 and once counted Thomas Edison as a stakeholder.

“We launched SP:01 in the mainland earlier in the year and have so far received more than 120 formal enquiries, which shows the passion of Chinese buyers,” Lam said, noting that the company aimed for total production capacity of 950 sedans in 2017.

For the first half of the year, sales of new electric vehicles in China surged by 162 per cent to 170,000 vehicles, cementing its status as the world’s biggest consumer of electric sedans. But growing the market entails challenges such as technology bottlenecks, a lack of charging facilities and an overreliance on government subsidies.

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