Back to the Future: DeLorean Plans an Electric Car

PHOTO: A DeLorean sports car, refitted with an electric motor. The DeLorean Motor Company of Humble, Texas, hopes to sell custom-made electric DeLoreans by 2013.
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"Marty, you've got to come back with me! Back to the future!"

It is one of those great bits from film history -- Doc Brown, the mad genius inventor from 1985's "Back to the Future," builds a time machine out of that iconic-but-failed sports car of the early 1980s, the DeLorean DMC-12.

There is still a DeLorean Motor Co. of Humble, Texas, which supplies parts and occasionally builds new cars for DeLorean lovers, and it has now announced a new version -- a DeLorean powered entirely by electricity.

"The car of the future has really become the car of the future," joked James Espey, a vice president at DeLorean, which has about 60 employees.

So far, said Espey, the company has retrofitted one car with an electric motor. If all goes well, he said, the company would start selling built-to-order electric DeLoreans around 2013. The sticker price (if a custom-built car can have a sticker): about $90,000.

The original DeLorean, with its brushed stainless-steel body and gull-wing doors, still looks futuristic to those who are fond of it, and Espey said it has turned out to be a good base on which to build an electric vehicle. The aluminum engine in the rear is replaced with an electric motor, batteries fill the front, and the car balances well.

Espey said he expects the final car will have the equivalent of 260 hp, be able to hit 125 mph, and have a range of at least 70 miles on a single charge.

No, there's no flux capacitor or Mr. Fusion (go watch the movie again if you don't get the joke), but the batteries will be made by a California company called Flux Power.

The DeLorean was famous well before Michael J. Fox, as Marty McFly, drove it at 88 mph in the "Back to the Future" films, and it has endured since. John DeLorean's company made about 9,000 cars before it went bankrupt in 1982, and Espey says about 7,500 of them still exist. Stephen Wynne, a car-loving entrepreneur, revived the name in 1995. John DeLorean, a once high-flying General Motors executive before he started his own company, struggled in his later years and died in 2005.

The company has been making eight to 10 made-to-order DeLoreans per year with gasoline engines and a price of $57,500. Espey said it is not yet taking orders for the electric version -- the single prototype is playfully called Version 0.9 -- until it is confident it has all the details worked out.

"But we're getting a lot of good feedback," Espey said. "People are offering to make deposits."

Why, beyond its fame from the films, does the DeLorean endure?

The DeLorean's engine compartment, artfully lit by DeLorean Motor Co.

"They only made it for three years," said Espey. "They didn't have time to make a lot of changes. So there's nothing to make you say, 'Oh, that's an old DeLorean,' or, 'This is a new one.' It still has a timeless design."

Which brings us back to 1985, and the moment in "Back to the Future" when Doc (Christopher Lloyd) unveils the car for Marty.

"Wait a minute, Doc," says Marty. "Are you telling me that you built a time machine out of a DeLorean?"

Doc answers, "The way I see it, if you're gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?"

 
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