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Column: Why I'm bringing the DeLorean back - as an electric car

Electricity is more readily available and cheaper than petrol, but people need to be converted to electric cars and realise that you can still get high performance from those vehicles, writes Stephen Wynne.

Stephen Wynne

AS FAR AS THE whole electric car movement goes, there has to be a change of mentality.

People need to be converted; they’ve got to realise that electricity is everywhere and the infrastructure for it is better than it is for petrol.

I love cars, I’m a car nut, and I believe electric is the way for cars to go. The performance that you’re able to get from en electric car is quite remarkable and we’re only scratching at the surface of it right now. The electric DeLorean is faster than the petrol one by a long shot. So for a car enthusiast that likes performance – it’s there with electric.

The DeLorean really has never gone away. Interest in the car has been intense because of the [Back to the Future] movies and the brand has sort of been ticking away for all these years.

We actually started producing the cars about six or seven years ago, regular petrol cars, and we’ve been doing about a dozen a year. But we’ve always been looking at what to do with the brand next. I’ve always been a fan of electric cars and it seems to me the right way to proceed and the logical next step for this car.

In US dollars for us to fill the car with electricity for 70-100 miles, it takes about $2.50. So though it’s an expensive vehicle, the economy is there because the saving is phenomenal as far as fuel is concerned.

There’s more electricity available in the world than there is petrol. Every building has an electric outlet in it. In a city like Houston, Texas where we are, there’s a large civil initiative to make charging stations readily available and we’re starting to see them at grocery stores and coffee shops, even on the highway.

And as electric cars get more and more popular, that’s what we’re going to see more and more, especially when businesses see the marketing advantage of having a charging point.

Powering your house – from the car

This car can be charged through a regular domestic US outlet which would allow the car to charge in about 12 hours. If a 230 volt circuit 50 amp is used, the car will charge in three hours. But if the charging connection widely used in Japan and creeping into the US is used, then the car will charge fully in 15 minutes.

If you look at businesses like coffee shops, supermarkets, book stores, if they offer this facility to customers, those customers are going to be locked into that business for 15 minutes or more, so there’s a commercial advantage for people to get on board and attract customers.

(The battery bay of the new DeLorean. Photo: GrenexMedia.com)

Another element in the switch is that there is a technology out there which is called ‘vehicle to grid’. When our car is fully charged, it’s carrying 35 kilowatts of electricity, which is huge.

With vehicle to grid, if you wish, you could run your house from the car. You could run a US-sized house with air conditioning and heating for at least two to three full days on the car.

With that in mind, when we talk about all of the natural resources of energy available out there – solar, wind, tidal, all these things through which natural energy is available – we need to look at storage. Most of the time when you get [renewable energy] is when you don’t need it, and it’s the storage that is an issue. In the future, the technology will be there to capture all of this energy and transfer it into these portable energy storage units – which are called ‘cars’.

Vehicle to grid exists right now, it’s being tested. Solar power, wind power, hydro power – everything to do this is all there, it’s just that there needs to be a bigger fleet of electric vehicles on the road for this to be more accepted and trusted. And the technology for it is improving in leaps and bounds through private investment.

The new DeLorean

I drive an electric DeLorean right now. Our production plans call for us to do a total of 300 vehicles, averaging 100 a year. Next year, we probably won’t come close to the 100 but in the later years we’ll be able to ramp up production and even the numbers out.

The silhouette or appearance is exactly the same as the original, and that’s on purpose, that’s what the brand is about and that’s what people recognise – the iconic silhouette. To do anything with the exterior of the car is messing with the image incorrectly.

As far as the mechanics of the car go though, there’s a lot of improvement. It has electrical running gear and batteries instead of a fuel system, for one thing. There are far more efficient air conditioning and heating systems available now than were available 30 years ago.

A lot of upgrades have been made with the interior and things there have been moved around a bit, the instrumentation will be different and the ‘infotainment system’, if you want to call it that, will be modernised to the latest and greatest specifications.

Our target price in the US is $95,000 per vehicle. We’re getting quite a bit of interest – the strongest initial interest has been from Japan, believe it or not. The Japanese have really taken a liking to electric cars, I think the penetration of them there is greater there than anywhere else. There could be as many as 20 DeLoreans a year going to Japan.

We’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response to the electric DeLorean. We’re three generations of people down the road from the car’s troubles so most of the current generation aren’t interested in the bankruptcy [under its former business], but they are interested in it as a unique car with a special place in motoring history.

So maybe the book isn’t closed and there’s more to come.

Stephen Wynne is the CEO of DeLorean Motor Company and is spearheading the development of an electric model of the 80s classic. The company currently aims to roll-out the first electric production DeLorean cars in Q1 2013.

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Stephen Wynne

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