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Proton signs deal for first full electric car

MALAYSIA'S national car maker Proton and a Dutch company signed a US$555 million deal yesterday to make zero-emission electric cars that they said would be more powerful than any existing model.

Proton and Detroit Electric, a startup company that owns the technology, signed the collaboration agreement to produce the sedan cars, initially targeted for Europe and the United States.

"We have the audacity to bring to the people an affordable, everyday car ... with zero emission," said Detroit Electric Chief Executive Albert Lam, a British citizen and a longtime auto industry executive who set up the company with a group of Dutch investors and inventors of the car's motor. Lam bought the naming rights to Detroit Electric, which produced electric cars in the US in 1907.

The new four-door vehicle will roll out of Proton's factory by early next year, Lam has said. The aim is to produce 40,000 cars in the first year, ramping up to 270,000 by 2013, he said. The cars will be priced between US$23,000 and US$33,000.

Light motor

Detroit Electric will use Proton's underutilized assembly line. Detroit Electric's motor, lithium-polymer battery, drive train and other components will be fitted into the bodies of two Proton models, Persona and Gen 2, and sold as Detroit Electric.

If it succeeds, Detroit Electric would be among the first to mass-produce an electric car driven purely by a noiseless battery-powered motor, unlike current hybrid engines that combine gasoline engines and electric motors.

Lam said the motor is four times lighter than existing motors and can produce 200 brake horse power, more than a 2.0 liter sedan can produce. The motor is 96 percent energy efficient compared to 45 percent efficiency in a gasoline engine, he said.

The base model of the car will have a range of 240 kilometers on a full charge of eight to 10 hours and a top speed of 195km/h. The higher model will have a range of 320 kilometers. Plugging the car to an ordinary electric power outlet would charge the lithium polymer battery, manufactured by a South Korean company.

Lam said the technology to produce long-range battery has existed for years, but the big auto names were reluctant to adopt it because it would have cut it into their own gasoline car market.


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