Every year, some company with more ambition than experience puts out a press release and a rendering and a litany of promises about revolutionary, all-electric performance. Then silence. It's the cult of ego and vaporware. Renovo is not a member, and it's out to prove it with an electric Shelby Daytona with 1,000 lb-ft of torque.
Rather than putting on a relentless parade of hype, Renovo has been in stealth mode since its founding in 2010, and Pebble Beach is their coming out party.
For four years, Renovo's CEO Christopher Heiser and its CTO Jason Stinson have been working under the radar on new breed of supercar that takes the latest EV technology and wraps it in something dripping with American performance heritage. Yup, that's a factory modified Shelby Daytona CSX9000, just in time for the car's 50th anniversary.
"We wanted a chassis that could handle the performance levels we had in mind, but also something classic and undeniably American," Heiser told Jalopnik. "We're proud to be here, to be doing this in the U.S."
That chassis, along with the body and suspension, is modified to withstand the rigors of the twin sequential motors putting out 500 horsepower to the rear wheels. Obviously, the headline figure is the torque – 1,000 lb-ft – available from a standstill and able to push the Renovo Coupe from 0 to 60 mph in under 3.4 seconds. But it's the packaging and weight that's more impressive.
"A 5,000-pound supercar wasn't going to work for us," says Heiser. So the company developed a new breed of patent-pending lithium-ion battery tech that's focused on performance and safety, with high heat tolerances, and the ability to charge and discharge rapidly. It's also compact enough to both shift the weight distribution for optimal handling and deliver a surprisingly low curb weight of 3,250 pounds – that's 24 pounds less than a Ferrari 458.
But that battery pack is also small, coming in at just 30 kWh (6 more than a Nissan Leaf), so range is pegged at about 100 miles.
"We could've put bigger batteries in for a 300-mile range," says Heiser. "But then it would've been 4,500 pound car." So instead they focused on charging. A standard Level 2 charger will top up the packs in about 5 hours – nothing revolutionary – but Heiser confessed that he wants the Coupe to spend lots of time at the track, so they've got a separate port for a fast-charger, which can juice the cells up in 30 minutes. "Fast charging is a really important part of the EV strategy and even bigger in the performance EV strategy," says Heiser.
With the lackluster range and the insane stats, it's easy to dispatch Renovo as yet another contestant on Who Wants To Build A Supercar? But after spending time with both Jason and Chris, their technical acumen, engineering chops, and fanatical devotion to the driving engagement proves otherwise. And based on their history and experience, I'm skeptical betting against them.
Heiser has a degree from Carnegie Melon and worked in robotics, software, and a range of start-ups (your phone probably uses his camera software), while Jason spent 18 years at Intel doing some seriously impressive chip work and still lectures at Stanford on the subject.
"I've always been a car guy," Jason says. "I've got a small collection of vintage cars that I wrench on. I'd still be at Intel, [but] I wanted to be a part of this history – a new chapter that's being written."
Living in the Bay Area, they met through mutual friends who worked at Tesla, and their love of both cars and technology brought them together to form Renovo. And Peter Brock, the original designer of the CSX9000, has been advising them from the start.
"This shape was nearly perfect 50 years ago, and physics doesn't change much over time," says Brock. "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."
Part of carrying it into the future was also updating the interior, but putting an absolute premium on the driving experience. There are new gauges and displays and a selector that allows the driver to adjust the brake regeneration on-the-fly, but, according to Heiser, "we don't want to distract our customers from the joy of driving the car."
Production is slated to begin in the first quarter of next year in Silicon Valley, with deliveries happening a few months later. They're focusing on small batches ("very, very small – fraction of what P1 and LaFerrari," says Heiser) and sales will be limited to the West Coast before Renovo goes nationwide.
With over four years of R&D under its belt, the support of Shelby and Brock, and a keen understanding of the underlying technology and how to market something that's a niche within a niche, Renovo has a solid shot at bringing a proper electric supercar to the road. And they're not just trotting it out to Pebble this week to show off their handiwork – they're giving rides and drives. That's a level of confidence rarely seen, and we'll know more this weekend when we saddle up for a spin.