Lotus Cars talks exclusively with Discover EV about its shift to all-electric

With deliveries of Lotus’ first electric hypercar – the Evija – starting imminently, and construction of a new site in Wuhan, China, already underway, for its family of all-new electric cars, the brand is embarking on an exciting new chapter. We get the full lowdown.

Your first electric car – the Lotus Evija – was unveiled two years ago and it was quoted that production was to start in early 2020, but media are only now testing prototypes. Why the delay?

Timings for the Evija programme have been pushed back. The biggest issue has been the travel ban, which has prevented our engineering teams taking the car to locations outside the UK for essential validation work such as hot and cold-weather testing. We are now able to travel and test again, and will complete the programme in the coming months.

Is it still limited to 130 orders? And are they all fulfilled? When will deliveries start?

We said from the start that we would not build more than 130 cars, a number set in tribute to the Evija’s Lotus Type number, Type 130. We have scheduled the first year’s production based on deposits taken, and also have many qualified customers who have formally registered their interest. That will take us way beyond the planned first year’s production. Deliveries will start in the coming months.

What has been the reaction to the Evija from your traditional buyers?

Reaction to the Evija has been hugely positive. Everyone can see that it is a statement of the bold ambition we have for the Lotus business and brand. The Evija is a true Lotus in every sense – it delivers beautiful design, efficient and elegant engineering, multiple uses for individual components, pioneering technology, traditional British craftsmanship, light-weighting, advanced materials, innovation and ingenuity. All of these and more are the very things which made Lotus great in the first place.

What sets the Lotus Evija apart from other high-priced, high-performance electric hypercars?

In addition to the attributes listed above, it is a true pioneer – the first British all-electric hypercar and the world’s most powerful series production car with a target power output in excess of 1972bhp.

Lotus sports cars are noted for their lightweight and fine handling characteristics. Batteries and electric motors are heavy – how have you got round this with your first electric car, which weighs twice as much as the original Elise?

Lightweighting has always been part of the Lotus DNA, so there are examples of weight-saving all over the Evija. Perhaps the best is the chassis. Evija is the first Lotus road car to utilise a pure motorsport-inspired, one-piece, carbon fibre monocoque chassis. It has been constructed from lightweight carbon plies, the manufacturing process is identical to that of an F1 chassis, and ensures the lightest, stiffest, safest and most technically advanced solution possible. The tub weighs just 129kg and even with the upper section fitted it’s only 150kg.  Our famed handling characteristics are also integrated into the Evija, with a mid-mounted power pack to mirror a renowned mid-engined sports car layout. 

In a quest for the Evija to be the lightest car in its class, has there been any trade-off, for example, range and charging capacity? Your 70kWh battery pack vs Rimac’s 120 spring to mind here.

The Evija’s battery pack is smaller than on the Rimac, but it is also more efficient. And there is no trade-off on charging capacity. In fact, it’s the opposite – we have developed a pack that can charge at more than 500kw.

We’ve heard that there will be large SUV in 2022, a four-door coupe (set to rival the Tesla S) the following year and a mid-size SUV (a direct competitor to the BMW iX3) slated for arrival in 2024, in addition to a new sports car in 2026. Can we expect bigger volumes for these cars and a lower price point compared to Lotus cars of the past?

Sales volumes of Lotus cars will increase as we expand our range with the all-electric models we announced in August. The two SUVs and the four-door coupe will be built at a new state-of-the-art facility in China. We will reveal prices of new Lotus cars closer to their respective launches.

Will these be based on the Premium Architecture with wheelbases ranging from 2889 mm to 3100mm, and with 92kWh to 120kWh battery options developed by Geely? If yes, what can we expect in terms of range and charging capability?

The two SUVs and the four-door coupe will be based on the Lotus Premium architecture, which is one of the four new Lotus vehicle platforms announced at our Driving Tomorrow global strategy conference last April. The Premium architecture supports a wheelbase range from 2889mm to 3100mm and could be further expanded in the future. It supports the development of all types of passenger vehicles from C+ to E segments. Using 92 to 120kWh batteries, it is compatible with the industry’s most advanced 800 volt high-speed EV charging system. Products developed on this platform will be capable of 0-62mph acceleration in less than three seconds.

You are due to launch an innovative new lightweight EV sports car in 2026, and it’s being developed using a new chassis that will support multiple layouts, wheelbase lengths, battery sizes and configurations. The new structure has been developed through Project LEVA (Lightweight Electric Vehicle Architecture) research programme – can you tell us about this please?

Project LEVA is a research programme led by Lotus that’s accelerating the development of all-new lightweight structures for next-generation battery electric vehicles. We announced it in October 2020 and revealed the results of it in September 2021. It has led to the development of a new structure which will be integrated into our new vehicle architecture for electric sports cars – the chassis on which the EV sports car to be launched in 2026 will be built.

If not covered above please explain how many different types of battery configurations it can accommodate, as well as wheelbase and propulsion possibilities.

Thanks to the innovation of Project LEVA, the EV sports car architecture is fully adaptable to provide a platform for a range of EVs with variable layouts, wheelbase lengths, battery sizes and configurations.

All three layouts feature a common lightweight die-cast rear sub-frame with multiple interchangeable components. This is the Project LEVA innovation, and it means single vehicle architecture can accommodate two different types of battery configurations:

  • ‘Chest’ layout, where the modules are stacked vertically behind the two seats. A chest layout is a ‘mid-mounted power pack’, ideal for sports car / hypercar vehicle types where a low overall ride height and low centre of gravity are required, and as seen on the Lotus Evija pure electric hypercar.
  • ‘Slab’ layout, where the modules are integrated horizontally under the cabin. This is most suitable for vehicles where a higher ride height and a taller overall profile are required. It is often referred to as a ‘skateboard power pack’ layout.

How is it different to other electric vehicle architectures?

The above is a pioneering approach to vehicle architecture development. Thanks to the innovation of Lotus and the Project LEVA partners, the rear structure is 37% lighter than it is on the Lotus Emira V6. It means Lotus now has the ‘blueprint’ for the next generation of electric sports cars, for future Lotus products and for the Lotus Engineering consultancy to commercialise.

Going back to the aforementioned new sports car due in 2026. Is this being developed in conjunction with Alpine? Please tell us a bit about it.

In January 2021 Lotus and Alpine, the performance car division of Groupe Renault, announced jointly that they had signed a memorandum of understanding to study a number of areas of cooperation, including the joint development of an EV sports car. Development work continues, and in September we announced first details of the EV sports car chassis and how the Project LEVA innovation would be integrated. Further details will be revealed in due course.

Lotus has announced that its new models will be built at a factory in Wuhan due to open later this year, as well as a new technology subsidiary which has received investment from NIO; does that mean you’ll be joining forces in terms of future development?

Li Bin, the founder of NIO, has become an investor in Lotus Technology. Lotus and NIO share many common interests in the field of intelligent electric mobility. In the future, both parties may explore opportunities for mutually beneficial industrial cooperation.

When will Lotus go fully electric?

The Lotus Emira – unveiled in July this year, on sale now and with first customer cars to be delivered next spring – is our last petrol-powered model. Everything launched after that will be pure electric.

Anything you’d like to add?

The ongoing transformation of the Lotus business and brand is set out in a strategy called Vision80. Launched in 2018, it defines what Lotus will look like in 2028, when we celebrate the 80th anniversary of the first Lotus car – the Lotus Mk I of 1948. Our strategy remains on track and all announcements relating to the Evija, Emira and further EVs are part of that. This is just the beginning; there is so much more to come from Lotus as we transform from a UK sports car company to a truly global performance car company.

Update 28.01.22: Lotus has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOA) with Britishvolt, forging a partnership to “co-develop innovative EV package to power new generation EV sports car” (sic). Britishvolt, which is in the process of establishing a gigafactory in the North East of England, and Lotus will look into battery cell packaging and advanced electric propulsion technologies respectively, bringing them together in a new electric sports car from Lotus. The expectation is that this technology could hit the road in the Type 132, a new all-electric performance SUV due to be unveiled soon, as well as three more EVs that Lotus is developing.

#ev-technology #electric-vehicles

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