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Electric Corvette a means to Genovation Cars’ end

Genovation Cars Inc., which got its start modifying Ford Focuses into a plug-in electric cars, is now working on its crown jewel — a 600-horsepower sports car that is expected to hit 60 miles per hour in under four seconds and is styled on the latest generation Chevrolet Corvette.

But the 3-year-old Rockville-based company’s ultimate goal is an electric car that it will build itself and sell to the general public.

Analysts say it won’t be easy.

While it works toward that goal, Genovation is looking to raise capital and interest in the company by building very limited-run models including the G-Vette, which is built on a Corvette Z06 aluminum frame. The car will have a carbon fiber body made using a soy-based resin, and an electric motor with a 200-mile range, capable of generating 600 foot pounds of torque. The company says a prototype, with everything except the engine, transmission and batteries, should be completed in October.

The G-Vette will also incorporate green features such as seats made with material manufactured from recycled plastic bottles, tires made of natural rubber and oil derived from orange peels that reduces the amount of petroleum used by 80 percent.

“It’s not just a high-performance electric car, it’s a high-performance green car,” said Andrew Saul, president and CEO of Genovation.  “This is our showcase car. We started the project to really demonstrate our technological abilities.”

In addition to Genovation’s work on the G-Vette prototype and its GSL, a hybrid-powered car inspired by the famous 1950s era Mercedes-Benz SL sports cars, the company is close to completing the first phase of the development of the G2, a two-door, four-seat electric car with an optional bio-ethanol or biodiesel generator that can extend the vehicle’s range.

The G1, the retrofitted Ford Focus, has a range of 100 miles.

The G2 is being designed and built with the help of companies including Tata Technologies, an arm of Indian automaker Tata that owns the Jaguar brand.

“Our primary goal is to build a federally certified, road-going vehicle — the G2,” Saul said. “We’d be happy to partner with someone, but the plan now is for us to go it alone.”

Genovation is anticipating having limited sales of the G2 as soon as 2013, Saul said. He said the company was seeking private equity and venture capital along with the possibility of taking Genovation public to raise the money needed to launch the car. He said he couldn’t say how much the G2 might cost.

The market for electric cars seems ready to take off in the next few years. A September report from Ernst & Young said collaboration between the established auto industry and companies like Genovation will be key to success in the electric car industry. The report said electric models from automakers such as Ford, Mitsubishi and Renault and new entrants including Tesla, BYD and Coda Automotive will come online between 2010 and 2013.

“After several decades of stops and starts, the electric vehicle industry is poised to fulfill its promise,” Gil Forer, who leads Ernst & Young’s clean technology division, said in the report.

And, according to a report from Pike Research, worldwide adoption of electric vehicles will grow quickly over the next five years. The firm expects sales of an estimated 3.2 million vehicles between 2010 and 2015 with a 106 percent annual growth rate.

Dave Hurst, senior analyst with Pike Research, a market research and consulting firm that provides analysis of global clean technology markets, said going up against the electric car offerings of established automakers will be difficult.

“The biggest challenge with startups like these is always going to be money,” Hurst said. “All of this is going to be very capital intensive, and getting the capital is no small task.”

He said he was pessimistic about the odds of a startup carmaker taking a design to production and then finding a retail network to sell them through.

“The idea of building a company like a new Toyota or GM just seems impossible in this market,” Hurst said. “But, there is potential if they find a specific niche like the conversion market. There isn’t much going on the conversion market right now.”