To the Paris Motor Show 2010, under the guidance of the former CEO Dany Bahar, the brand has a bold relaunch plan, showing off well five prototypes for production. “With Lotus we were trying to do in one year what other companies would have done in ten years. It was an arduous training camp, where I learned the value of having a phenomenal team around, committed to the end “, says the manager, today at the helm of the Ares Design, specialized in customized cars. But the company’s accounts betray Lotus’s dreams of glory.
They follow almost 10 years of oblivion, with the production reduced to the bone and the almost total absence of new models. The turning point, however, comes to June 2017, when Geely acquires 49.9% of the Malaysian manufacturer Proton, from which it detects 51% of Lotus. The message from the new owners is clear from the start: the will is to “expand and accelerate the launch of new products and technologies ” of the sports manufacturer based in Hethel, with a keen eye on the increasingly stringent standards regarding polluting emissions.
“At the moment we are not focusing on SUVs,” Popham reveals to Auto Express, “but we are considering every segment: crossovers, sports sedans, GTs, as long as the result can be compatible with the spirit of Lotus “. All this to increase sales volumes from a few hundred units to more 10,000 pieces per year in the shortest possible time. At stake there is a 1.7 billion euro recovery plan.
The financial power of Geely is revealed in all its strength already in 2019, with the supercar Evija, sporty 2,000 HP electric motor, the most powerful and technological series Lotus ever: it boasts active aerodynamics, with active surfaces with variable geometry, pulverizes the canonical 0-100 km / h in less than 3 seconds, the 0-300 km / h in less than 9 and touches a top speed above 320 km / h. But, in addition to the numbers, the electron supercar brings a subliminal message as a dowry: on zero emissions, China wants to set the pace and establish the reference points, albeit with English electrified components, as in this case.
And it is Evija that represents the new direction that the company wants to take, that of zero emissions precisely. An unprecedented revolution in the 72-year history of Lotus e without going through that “bridge technology” which is the hybrid, in its more or less sophisticated forms. “We believe in the future of battery electric vehicles and our intention is to offer this technological solution on our next products,” said Phil Popham: “Electric mechanics is really suitable for sports cars, both for driving torque characteristics, weight distribution, for the stylistic freedom it allows and for its dynamic flexibility. It is the most advanced technical choice for sports cars. ” The first serial Lotus on tap – the Evija will be assembled in just 130 units – is expected to arrive by the end of 2022.
Why snub the hybrid? Why “carry a small heat engine in addition to batteries and electric thrusters, it goes against the philosophy of our sports cars, that have compact mechanics, “says Popham:” Instead, you need to minimize the weight for maximize performance and distribute it in the right places to obtain the right driving dynamics “. Things that, according to Lotus, are easier to do with pure electric mechanics: “Batteries are modular, and you don’t have to build the car around some large components such as gearboxes and engines. This guarantees some design flexibility “. Before finally saying goodbye to the internal combustion engines, however, Lotus will launch a new sporty connecting rods and pistons, expected already in the middle of next year as a swan song of an era.
Curious to note, finally, as in 2008 the Tesla Roadster, the first electron sports car wanted by Elon Musk, was based on the chassis of the Lotus Elise: almost one prophecy of what would have happened, almost three decades later, to Lotus herself.
All that remains is to understand how the British house technicians will do a minimize the number one enemy of sports, weight, real Achilles heel of battery cars. “Add horses and you will be strong on the straight, remove weight and you will be strong everywhere”he said Colin Chapman, founder of Lotus. That it is a warning to the designers of the brand …