In Geely's Hands, Lotus Joins A New Powertrain Family

Photo: Volvo Cars

After an era of working with Japanese motors, Lotus will join the rest of the Geely stable in using variants of a shared family of engines. Along with the battery electric powertrains like the one found in the Evija, the motors may also serve as an important component of Lotus’s current reinvention.

According to a press release from Zhejiang Geely Group, the parent company of Geely Auto, Volvo, and Lotus, Lotus will be one of at least six brands to benefit from the new effort, which is designed to consolidate previously separate development processes taking place within Volvo and Geely in Gothenburg and Hangzhou respectively.

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This new program aims to allow more of the brands under Geely’s ownership to make use of much of the investment made by Geely into Volvo’s powertrain development program. Volvo’s engineers have been putting into drivetrains that are designed to carry the company into an all-electric future while staying competitive with the rest of the internal-combustion competition. The result so far has been a line of small-displacement three and four cylinder engines that can be used in smaller models like the XC40 as well as other Geely products like plug-in hybrid arrangement in LEVC’s London cab.

Geely’s attempt to squeeze the most out of these small-displacement motors hasn’t been limited to small cars only, though. They’ve been determined to get real performance out of the line as well, particularly for Volvo’s larger models, like the S90, V90 and XC90. To compete with higher-displacement six and eight cylinder engines from the German competition, Volvo’s strategy has been to beef up its smaller motors with innovative forced-induction and plug-in hybrid setups, pulling as much as 600 horsepower out of a version of this motor in the monstrous Polestar 1.

Even before this new program of powertrain-sharing began, Geely had already drawn on Volvo’s powertrain development for its Lynk & Co brand, sticking the basic engines in the 01, 02, and 03 models, and even helping the brand build a 528-HP version of its sedan for Nürburgring records.

So what does this all mean for Lotus? For one, it means that there may be a match for the engines the little company has been using for years in its sports cars. For more than 15 years, Lotus has made use of Toyota motors, with 1ZR, 2ZR and 2ZZ straight-fours in the Elise and Exige and the 2GR V6 in the Evora. Before the Toyota engines, Lotus made use of the Rover K-series, which powered the original Elise when it first carved corners back in 1996.

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While a representative for Geely couldn’t tell me more about what this new arrangement will mean for Lotus’s upcoming product, we do know Geely-powered Lotuses are coming. It says so right in the press release. If the motors we’ve seen for far are anything to go off of, though, these new cars will have a hard time conforming to Colin Chapman’s classic adage. The performance cars in Geely’s stable right now are heavy. Really heavy. Blame the batteries and transmission components. They’re awful complicated too. But there’s time and Geely certainly is putting in the effort to welcome Lotus to the family, so maybe there’s hope as well. Lotus CEO Phil Popham certainly seemed hopeful when we spoke with him earlier this year.

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Max Finkel

Max Finkel is a Weekend Contributor at Jalopnik.