It may, at first glance, look like a Shelby American, and your eyes wouldn’t be deceiving you. It’s what’s under the skin that transforms that already serious piece of performance machinery into an even more notable entry into the automotive pantheon.
Making its debut over the weekend at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, what start-up Renovo Motors bills as “America’s First All-Electric Supercar” is likely to shock folks who associate battery-electric vehicles with the likes of the Nissan Leaf or Mitsubishi i-MiEV.
The modified coupe has been outfitted with a 500-horsepower battery-powered driveline that transforms it into the Renovo Coupe, a rear-wheel-drive electric supercar capable of launching from 0 to 60 in a mere 3.4 seconds. The price tag, is equally likely to take your breath away, however, at a hefty $529,000
It’s actually not the first electric supercar. Mercedes-Benz briefly built an all-electric version of its SLS model, the AMG Electric, that delivered a full 740-hp, although it was a wee bit slower off the line, with a rated 0 to 60 time of 3.6 seconds.
That may be because the Renovo Coupe also makes about a third more torque, at a tire-spinning 1,000 pound-feet.
And, despite the heft of lithium-ion batteries, the company was able to hold the overall weight of the Renovo Coupe to an impressive 3,250 pounds.
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Top speed, at least by supercar standards, isn’t nearly as impressive, at just 129 mph – or about what would be considered barely cruising on the German Autobahn.
But the Coupe, based on a Shelby American CSX9000 chassis, is nonetheless a sign of the potential that battery-electric vehicles can deliver when tuned for what Renovo Chief Technical Officer Jason Stinson describes as “performance junkies.” The reality is that electric motors deliver maximum torque the moment they start turning, which is why they can deliver such incredible launch numbers.
The high-performance package for the Tesla Model S brings that battery sedan’s 0 to 60 times down to around four seconds, in line with a Porsche 911 – and for a fraction of the cost of the Renovo Coupe, about $110,000 fully loaded.
The Model S, meanwhile, can deliver nearly 300 miles range, albeit when driven a bit more sedately. Here, the Renovo Coupe is more in line with other current electric vehicles, with a stated range of around 100 mph, and a charging time of about 5 hours using a 220-volt system. Plug it into one of the new Level III DC chargers beginning to pop up around the country and you can be back at 80% of full range in just 30 minutes, Renovo claims.
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Considering that Tesla and other battery-carmakers have been opting for very modern, sometimes quirky designs, why did Renovo borrow the CSX9000, which is essentially Carroll Shelby’s 1964 Le Mans car?
“This shape was nearly perfect 50 years ago, and physics doesn’t change much over time,” said designer Peter Brock, who served as an early advisor to Renovo Motors. “However, the redesigned car has a totally updated body, frame, suspension, and cabin; it’s a new chapter for this chassis. When the Renovo team approached me with the idea of incorporating my work into their designs, I was thrilled. The finished product definitely carries the spirit of the original car strongly into the future.”
The Renovo Coupe will go into production in 2015, the Silicon-Valley start-up promises. Initial sales will focus on California, then spread to other parts of the country.
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