Detroit Electric Ltd. plans to produce and market a full line of innovative pure electric vehicles in the U.S., U.K., European Union and China beginning in 2010.

The Netherlands-based EV auto maker and Malaysian national car company Proton Holdings Bhd sign a strategic partnership today that calls for the mass production of EVs, with Detroit Electric integrating its patented electric-drive systems into the vehicles.

As reported by Ward’s last September, Detroit Electric will license two Proton vehicle platforms and contract the auto maker to assemble the EVs to be marketed under Detroit Electric’s brand. The agreement gives Detroit Electric its first manufacturing base.

Proton will produce 40,000 vehicles annually under license for four years under the agreement, which the Malaysian media reports is worth $331 million.

Detroit Electric Chairman and CEO Albert Lam says the 5-year pact will put his company on the fast track to bring a full line of innovative, practical and affordable EVs to the global market. He is a veteran automotive and technology executive, who spent five years as CEO of Lotus Engineering and also has worked for Jaguar Cars, Land Rover and Ford Motor Co.

“We chose Proton due to its state-of-the-art production facility, commitment to research and development, cost efficiency and stable, high-quality workforce,” Lam says in a statement.

Detroit Electric plans to sell more than 270,000 EVs in Europe, the U.K., China and the U.S. by 2012. The vehicles will be priced between $23,000 and $26,000 for the city-range model and $28,000 and $33,000 for the extended-range vehicle.

Styling changes will distinguish Detroit Electric’s vehicles from Proton’s existing lineup.

The vehicles will be based on Detroit Electric’s patented electric-drive system that greatly reduces the electric motor’s size and weight. The underlying magnetic flux-motor technology and lithium polymer battery technology allow the EVs to achieve a single-charge range of 111 miles (180 km) for the city range and 200 miles (325 km) for the extended range model.

Detroit Electric says it is in the final stage of setting up two subsidiaries – Detroit Electric Energy, which will produce the battery technology, and Detroit Electric Advanced Propulsion Lab, which will manufacture the motor and controller.

Both will be located in Malaysia close to Proton’s vehicle-assembly plants. By 2012, the two production plants are targeted to build more than 400,000 electric-drive systems and create thousands of jobs.

Detroit Electric says it will be responsible for the homologation of the vehicles and for vehicle certification in the U.S. and European markets. The aim is to begin sales in Europe in first-quarter 2010 and in the U.S. in the third quarter. The company will assume all warranty and liabilities for the EVs, while Proton will warranty the vehicle’s build and standard components.

“Our vehicles will be reliable, meet all quality and safety requirements and quite simply outperform internal-combustion-engine vehicles of the same class,” Lam says. “They will be affordable as we look at the competitive market and come without the polluting carbon (dioxide) emissions.”

The signing of the agreement initiates a test and validation program in which Proton will evaluate Detroit Electric’s electric-drive system with the intent to license the rights to market and sell vehicles under the Proton brand in Asia.

Detroit Electric says it is looking to repeat similar contract production partnerships with auto makers in Europe and the U.S. This will allow the company to extend its range of models quickly to meet demand in the different automotive segments in these markets.

“When you are trying to redefine the automotive industry, you need to bring many partners along,” Lam says. “Our contract manufacturing business model will breathe new life into current manufacturers, leveraging existing unutilized global resources and accelerating the technological advancement of pure-electric vehicles.”

Lam says he’s confident the EVs will attract a diverse base of consumers, despite the serious global downturn in automotive markets that follows a tightening credit market, lowered consumer confidence, unstable oil prices and stricter fuel-economy regulations.

“Our target audience are those who purchase practical and affordable vehicles,” he says. “This makes our products fit the pockets of a very wide audience, from professionals and executives, to mothers, students and small business owners.”

Detroit Electric was the longest-running EV brand when it was produced from 1907-1939 by the Anderson Electric Car Co. in Detroit. Henry Ford built his first car while working fulltime for the firm. Anderson previously was known as the Anderson Carriage Co. until 1911, producing carriages and buggies from 1884. Production of electric automobiles, powered by a rechargeable lead-acid battery, began in 1907.

The Detroit Electric name disappeared from the market in 1939 and was revived by Lam and other shareholders in the Netherlands and the U.S.