Electric Cars Turning Cali Into Green Detroit


detroit electricOver a century ago Anderson Electric Car Company started making electric cars under the brand “Detroit Electric” out of that well-known industrial city. More recently ZAP (ZAAP) and China Youngman Automotive Group have rebranded their joint electric vehicle-making venture as “Detroit Electric” in a homage to the electric automotive pioneers. And like its forebear, the new Detroit Electric is looking into making their cars in America.

But Detroit is no longer the center of automotive innovation and now the Golden State is becoming a focal point of the EV revolution. California has been one of the centers of cleantech and electric vehicle research and more recently has started to become a manufacturing hub of electric vehicles. As Detroit lays off workers by the thousands – Chrysler alone is in the midst of laying off 13,000 employees – venture-funded electric car startups have started to bring some car manufacturing jobs back to the States, particularly California.

Detroit Electric is just the latest EV firm that could bring manufacturing jobs to Cali. The company says beyond 2009 there’s a “possibility of bringing new manufacturing and green collar jobs to California.” The release refers to the state as its “launch pad:”

“It is one of the most ready markets to adopt these new green vehicle solutions. . . The governor and his leadership here have created a fertile environment for us to create and grow.” Detroit Electric Chairman Albert Lam.

Electric sports car maker Tesla told us this week that the company will be moving its battery pack production from Thailand to California. The company also hopes to one day buy its battery cells, now made in Japan, from domestic manufacturers.

Phoenix Motors currently has an assembly line in Ontario, Calif. to build its electric pickups and SUVs. The Phoenix chassis are shipped from South Korea, but all modifications and assembly are done on American soil while Altairnano produces the lithium batteries for Phoenix’s vehicles at their Indiana facility.

Aptera, which we wrote about here, will be manufacturing its vehicles in its Carlsbad, Calif. facility. And Venture Vehicles, funded last summer, will be building its “VentureOne” in California too.

Meanwhile, electric car makers are also moving into the big three’s old turf. Tesla Motors opened up its Michigan Technical Center in Rochester Hills, outside of Detroit, where work on its WhiteStar sedan is taking place. And electric car designer-turned-builder Fisker Automotive is rumored to be looking for some manufacturing space for its plug-in hybrid in the Detroit area too.

And, yes, the numbers are still small for green jobs in EV making. Tiny electric car maker Commuter Cars assembles its vehicles in Spokane, Wash. but employs only six people. Even bigger electric car makers, like Tesla with its 200+ employees, pale in comparison to the thousands of autoworkers getting laid off and bought out by the big three domestic car makers.

Still the number of jobs in electric car manufacturing continues to go up as all these EV makers ramp up domestic production including Myers Motors of Ohio, and Spark Electric Vehicles’ Comet will be “made in the USA”.

As work on internal-combustion based vehicles flows out of the country, electrics vehicles could recharge the American automotive workforce and California could be the green Detroit.


J Grant

Wow, we’ve come a long way. Is that a 1909 electric? There was a restored 1904 electric Oldsmobile at the Greenwich Concord very quite, very nice. Not to good on the highway good in town. Guess the problem remains long distance charge. MI in 1956 showed recharge tracks on the road in the future. Flying model planes for 40 years battery size to charge ratio has improved 200 percent, amazing!
Batteris or gas?


Green energy is definitely the best solution in most cases. Technology like solar energy, wind power, fuel cells, zaps electric vehicles, EV hybrids, etc have come so far recently. Green energy even costs way less than oil and gas in many cases.

Katie Fehrenbacher

The press release says they are also looking into manufacturing opportunities in Cali. “Management will be opening offices in California and evaluating manufacturing opportunities for economic development within the state.” But also says, “The vehicles will be manufactured under the supervision of Youngman Automotive, one of China’s newest automotive manufacturers and a leading manufacturer of buses and trucks.” So we’ll see how much manufacturing gets done domestically. http://www.tradingmarkets.com/.site/news/Stock%20News/1078184/


I thought the JV between ZAP and Youngman was for the manufacture of cars in China, not California. The press release on the rebranding to Detorit Electric said that the headquarters would be in CA – probably in Santa Rosa where ZAP is located.

The interesting thing that is developing relates to the weak dollar. As it has gotten weaker over the last few years, it has been increasingly less advantageous to source overseas and more advantageous to find domestic sources. Regardless, the global ecosystem of automotive suppliers almost guarantees that all cars by startups are made up of parts sourced from all over the place, regardless of where they are finally assembled or manufactured.

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