HY­PER ‘E’LECTRICITY

Lo­tus joins the near 2000-horse­power, `20 crore elec­tric hy­per­car club with the Evija. The ques­tion evo asks is: why?

Evo India - - CONTENTS - WORDS by STU­ART GAL­LAGHER PHO­TOG­RA­PHY by ANDY MOR­GAN

A Lo­tus like never be­fore, tak­ing the fight to hal­lowed, car­bon­neu­tral hy­per­car ter­ri­tory

‘TO MAKE RIPPLES IN ANY IN­DUS­TRY YOU NEED to make a splash. This is our splash.’ The words of Phil Popham, CEO of Lo­tus Cars, and his splash is the Evija, the first all-new Lo­tus for over a decade, the first since Chi­nese con­glom­er­ate Geely was handed the keys to Potash Lane in 2017 and the first all-elec­tric British sports car. But will this lat­est four-fig­ure-horse­power hy­per­car with a sev­en­fig­ure price tag sink or swim? Does the world need an­other elec­tric hy­per­car cost­ing well into the mil­lions and with a power out­put all but un­us­able on the road and not ex­actly ex­ploitable on track?

We’ll find out next year when the first de­liv­er­ies are made, and yes, it does sound in­cred­i­bly am­bi­tious for a com­pany cur­rently sell­ing fewer than 2000 cars a year to de­velop and build its most tech­no­log­i­cally ad­vanced car ever in such a short pe­riod of time. But the Evija was in fact placed on Lo­tus’s fu­ture prod­uct plan when Jean-Marc Gales was brought in to re­place Dany Ba­har and when Pro­ton still owned Lo­tus. How­ever, a huge vol­ume of wa­ter has passed un­der the bridge since then. Gales re­turned Lo­tus to profit, and Geely bought Pro­ton and there­fore Lo­tus, while Gales has since left Nor­folk for Es­sex to clean up the mess left by Derek Hood at JD Clas­sics. Only 12 months to bring the Evija to mar­ket, though? Well, bil­lion­aires aren’t known for their pa­tience, not when `17.2 crore (price in UK, ex­clud­ing In­dian taxes and du­ties) elec­tric hy­per­car an­nounce­ments are as fre­quent to­day as news of a new VW Group SUV, and they also won’t tol­er­ate half-baked toys.

Lo­tus’s plan is to de­liver a car­bon­fi­bre-tubbed, car­bon­fi­bre-bod­ied hy­per­car that wor­ships at the al­ter of aero­dy­nam­ics in some very clever, very in­no­va­tive ways. It’s pure Lo­tus and hugely ap­peal­ing in this re­spect, de­spite the thread of cyn­i­cism you might have de­tected so far. It is also very un-Lo­tus, too. Colin Chap­man was a genius and he em­ployed equally tal­ented peo­ple, and the com­pany con­tin­ued to do so af­ter his death. It is why for years Lo­tus has been the go-to place for car com­pa­nies that dis­cover the ride and han­dling en­gi­neers they ini­tially hired aren’t up to the job. It’s why it’s not un­com­mon for driv­ers to step out of a McLaren and sug­gest that it feels like a big­ger Lo­tus.

And Chap­man, and Lo­tus, had a prin­ci­ple where light­ness, in­no­va­tion and sim­plic­ity were at the heart of a great per­for­mance car. The Evija weighs 1680kg in its light­est trim, has an elec­tric mo­tor fit­ted to each wheel and also fea­tures a com­plex driver mode sys­tem that will al­low you to switch be­tween power out­puts de­pend­ing on the kind of tar­mac you find your­self on. It’s a Lo­tus, but not as we know it.

‘It’s been a while since we’ve been given a clean sheet of pa­per to de­sign a new Lo­tus. And it’s the first time we’ve ever been asked to de­sign a Lo­tus hy­per­car,’ says Rus­sell Carr, the firm’s de­sign direc­tor. ‘But this free­dom came with huge re­spon­si­bil­ity, be­cause no mat­ter what the pow­er­train, this car had to still be a Lo­tus. Not only the way it looks, but also how it drives. Any­one who has driven a Lo­tus has to see this car and im­me­di­ately be able to get a sense of how it will

drive. The pu­rity of a Lo­tus de­sign has to re­flect the pu­rity of the driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.’

But this is no re­place­ment for an ex­ist­ing model, so it also pro­vided an op­por­tu­nity for Lo­tus, Carr and Popham to demon­strate what Lo­tus can and will be in the fu­ture. ‘We wanted to take that Lo­tus DNA and add a sense of lux­ury to it, which isn’t some­thing we are known for,’ Carr ex­plains. ‘Pu­rity and sim­plic­ity sit at the heart of ev­ery­thing we do, but the Type 130 pro­ject gave us the op­por­tu­nity to build on these and add more el­e­ments.’

In­spired by the flow­ing form of the Lockheed SR-71 Black­bird, Carr and his team worked with aero­dy­nam­i­cists to en­able the Evija to reach its re­mark­able claimed per­for­mance: 0-100kmph in un­der three sec­onds, with 299kmph ar­riv­ing in less than nine. This has re­sulted in the small­est hint of Ex­ige in the front haunches and nose, and an in­cred­i­bly de­tailed over­all de­sign that’s as so­phis­ti­cated as it is strik­ing. The LMP1-in­flu­enced cab-for­ward lay­out is new for Lo­tus, and while the Evija re­mains a halo car, it does, says Carr, give a strong in­di­ca­tion of what the next gen­er­a­tion of Lo­tus se­ries mod­els will look like.

Ac­tive aero in the front bumper above the split­ter chan­nels air through the front whee­larches be­fore it ex­its along the door. With no need for a ra­di­a­tor in the nose, the op­por­tu­nity was taken to man­age the air­flow through, up and over the car, as­sisted by air chan­nels run­ning un­der the two-piece front bon­net. At first glance it looks a lit­tle plain – it’s only when you bend at the knee and have those LED

head­lights in your eye­line that the de­sign makes it­self clear. It’s in­tri­cate without be­ing fussy, func­tion matched with el­e­gance.

Deeply sculpted doors keep the air flow­ing smoothly, dis­pers­ing the un­wanted tur­bu­lence as quickly and ef­fi­ciently as pos­si­ble while fun­nelling what is re­quired through the large open­ings in the rear quar­ters that run through the body­work – large enough, in­ci­den­tally, that you could ask a child (seven to eight years old would be op­ti­mum) wrapped in a mi­crofi­bre one­sie to climb in­side them when it’s de­tail­ing day. As the air ex­its these chan­nels it meets more of the same sub­stance, which has raced un­der the Evija be­fore be­ing spat out through a rear dif­fuser of con­sid­er­able com­plex­ity. A fi­nal aero el­e­ment to point out is also the one that is most overt when it comes into play – the ac­tive rear wing that acts as the Evija’s Drag Re­duc­tion Sys­tem (DRS).

Car­bon­fi­bre con­struc­tion re­tains the Colin Chap­man ethos of adding light­ness, but with an elec­tric car there’s al­ways one size­able elephant in the room: weight. At 1680kg the Evija has the un­for­tu­nate ac­co­lade of be­ing the heav­i­est Lo­tus road car ever, pre­dom­i­nantly down to its bat­tery pack. De­vel­oped by Wil­liams Ad­vanced En­gi­neer­ing (which also man­u­fac­tures the bat­ter­ies for the cars in For­mula E and de­vel­oped the hy­brid fly­wheel sys­tem for Porsche’s 911 GT3 R hy­brid racer), the 70kWh bat­tery is go­ing to be good for out­puts of 1972bhp and 1700Nm of torque. This makes just one of the quar­tet of mo­tors more pow­er­ful than any other Lo­tus road car.

Torque vec­tor­ing will be at the core of the Evija’s chas­sis con­trol, with each mo­tor ca­pa­ble of work­ing in­di­vid­u­ally to man­age it. While the pow­er­train and as­so­ci­ated hard­ware – and soft­ware – will be new ground for the team at Hethel, the Evija will, ac­cord­ing to head of ve­hi­cle en­gi­neer­ing Ga­van Ker­shaw, drive and be­have like a Lo­tus: ‘It needs to feel like a Lo­tus no mat­ter what the amount of per­for­mance you use. But we know hav­ing all that power and torque avail­able all of the time will compromise this, so we’re developing four driv­ing modes: City, Tour, Sport and Race.

‘In City mode you get the most range [Lo­tus says

400 kilo­me­tres], and Sport and Race will let you run at over 300kmph for ten min­utes without a drop-off in per­for­mance.’ To date, the driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence is still to be mapped out on a sim­u­la­tor, with Ker­shaw and his team not ex­pected to get be­hind the wheel of a run­ning pro­to­type be­fore the sum­mer is out.

Slip in­side the Evija and the first thing that strikes you is how easy en­try is. There’s a wide sill but there’s no un­gainly tum­ble as you slide your back­side into the seat and swing your legs into the footwell. Er­gonom­i­cally it feels very Lo­tus. There’s a sense of space, of the en­vi­ron­ment be­ing clut­ter-free, and there’s a great line of sight look­ing for­ward. A min­i­mal­ist in­stru­ment bin­na­cle in­cor­po­rates a TFT screen al­low­ing for mul­ti­ple dis­play op­tions, the square steer­ing wheel suit­ing the aes­thetic, although all the con­trols nor­mally found on the in­stru­ment stalks are on the wheel along with the driver mode con­trol switch. Be­tween the driver and pas­sen­ger hangs a glass panel with hap­tic aux­il­iary con­trols. It feels modern, with a level of at­ten­tion to de­tail never be­fore seen in a Lo­tus. And there’s not a sin­gle piece of Vaux­hall switchgear.

De­tails play a con­sid­er­able part in the Evija’s make-up: the di­he­dral doors form a (small) part of the glass roof, the elec­tric mir­rors that hide away in­side them are rem­i­nis­cent of those on McLaren’s Speed­tail (‘We couldn’t be­lieve it when we saw the McLaren last year,’ an ex­as­per­ated Carr said when he in­tro­duced evo to the Evija back in March), and the rear LED light units that ring those vast rear open­ings are de­light­fully ex­e­cuted. Us­ing the ‘T’ on the Lo­tus badge on the rear of the car as the re­vers­ing light is plain cool, the high-in­ten­sity light in the rear dif­fuser very F1. And the cen­tre-lock, 20-inch mag­ne­sium wheels are re­fresh­ingly sim­ple. Be­low the rear Lo­tus badge is where you’ll find the Evija’s charg­ing socket.

Yet the Evija is any­thing but sim­ple – in its de­sign, con­struc­tion and what it means for Lo­tus. With Geely fund­ing, these first two points aren’t of con­cern. The re­de­vel­op­ment of Hethel con­tin­ues at a re­mark­able rate, and while the 130 Evi­jas will be built on site, this will hap­pen in a new, unique fa­cil­ity that Lo­tus plans to use for fur­ther high-value spe­cial mod­els. It’s what the Evija means for Lo­tus that presents the big­gest chal­lenge for Bri­tain’s old­est sports car firm. Its first eight decades have seen it sur­vive ev­ery high and low imag­in­able for a car com­pany, and yet still pro­duce some of the very best driver’s cars to grace a road. Cars that have been sim­ple, light, com­pact (the Evija is nearly four-and-a-half me­tres long and two me­tres wide…) and above all, ac­ces­si­ble. For the last decade the com­pany has sur­vived off a stream of Elise, Evora and Ex­ige spe­cial edi­tion mod­els. Mod­els that are still some of the very best, and ca­pa­ble of blood­y­ing the noses of per­for­mance cars re­gard­less of their pedi­gree. We won’t see any in­di­ca­tion of what the re­place­ments for those cars will look like for an­other 18 months.

How­ever, each new model will take in­spi­ra­tion from the Evija, be it its car­bon­fi­bre con­struc­tion or its elec­tri­fied pow­er­train, although in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gines will re­main. In the in­terim, the Evija will take the head­lines, hope­fully at­tract enough `2.15 crore de­posits and build on the foun­da­tions put in place be­fore Geely took own­er­ship.

For evo, the Evija is a car we ad­mire. A Lo­tus we are fully be­hind be­cause of what it could lead to in the fu­ture and what it says about the com­mit­ment from Geely. But it’s an­other car from a sec­tor that leaves us cold. One that, on face value, puts straight-line per­for­mance and ex­clu­siv­ity be­fore driv­ing en­gage­ment and en­joy­ment. But if any­one can inject a personalit­y and char­ac­ter into cars that ap­pear more like ex­tras from Tron than stars of Ronin, it’s Lo­tus. ⌧

LO­TUS EVIJA

Engine Four elec­tric mo­tors Power 1972bhp Torque 1700Nm Weight 1680kg Power-to-weight 1193bhp/ton 0-100kmph <3.0sec Top speed >320kmph Ba­sic price `17.2 crore (ex­clud­ing In­dian taxes and du­ties)

IT’S WHAT THE EVIJA MEANS FOR LO­TUS THAT PRESENTS THE BIG­GEST CHAL­LENGE

Above left: DRS rear wing sits flush to the body­work when its ef­fect is not re­quired; brakes are by AP Rac­ing, with car­bon-ce­ramic discs. Above: Car­bon shell seats are hand-trimmed in Al­can­tara; four-point har­nesses are an op­tion

Left: Race carin­spired steer­ing wheel houses ma­jor con­trols. Above: Ab­sence of ra­di­a­tors al­lows aero to take pri­or­ity

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