Lotus Is Determined To Make A Lightweight EV To Succeed The Elise

It'll have at least 470 horsepower and allow for batteries stacked in a midengine-like configuration.

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2010 Lotus Elise concept car
Who remembers the 2010 Lotus Elise concept car?
Image: Lotus

Electric vehicles tend to be heavy. Lotus’ cars have historically been light. The British brand has already announced it won’t produce another internal combustion-powered car after the new Emira. As you can imagine, this poses a bit of a conundrum, especially as Lotus is working on an all-electric spiritual successor to the Elise. It’s tentatively called the Type 135, and it’s due out in 2026.

Lotus is adamant that the brand’s ethos won’t be lost in the transition to the EV age, and the company has just revealed lots of background information about the E-Sports architecture that will underpin the Type 135 to Autocar. The key is that this platform has been made lighter from the outset to ideally make up for the added heft of all those batteries:

The E-Sports platform has yet to be revealed in its entirety but will be based around a lightweight rear subframe housing batteries and motors, developed by the dedicated Project LEVA (Lightweight Electric Vehicle Architecture) programme.

Said to be 37% lighter than the equivalent structure used by the Emira, it has been designed from the ground up to compensate for the added weight of an electric powertrain and with a view to replicating the typical dynamic traits of previous Lotus models. The batteries can either be stacked vertically behind the seats – in a layout reminiscent of a conventional mid-engined format – or arranged under the floor in longer-wheelbase cars with rear seats.

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The fact that E-Sports has been designed such that batteries can be lumped behind the seats vertically, in addition to the underfloor arrangement common for most EVs, may help give Lotus’ future sports cars more traditional dynamics. Going against tradition, E-Sports will support both rear- and all-wheel-drive configurations.

Despite the efforts to make any future Elise feel as much like its predecessor as possible — as similar as an EV could, anyway — one thing that is guaranteed to change is the amount of power on offer:

The E-Sports architecture will host single- and twin-motor powertrains ranging in output from 469bhp to 872bhp. This means the entry-level sports car will pack nearly double the power of even the most powerful iteration of the Elise, and more powerful versions could fill the gap left by the more track-focused Exige.

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For some perspective, the Series 2 Elise was churning about 250 horsepower by the end of its run, in a car that weighed little more than 2,000 pounds. The Tesla Roadster, which was based on the Elise, weighed almost 2,900 pounds. Likewise, the Type 135 will probably be much heavier than any Elise, though it remains to be seen to what degree Lotus will be able to keep the weight down. The rise in power could very well be necessary to counteract the additional mass.

Lotus told Autocar that E-Sports will be offered with two battery capacities — 66.4kWh and 99.6kWh. The smaller one is expected to deliver about 300 miles of range on a charge, which would be very, very good for a small sports car. The larger one may reach as far as 450 miles. And E-Sports has been designed with room to grow, possibly underpinning an Evora successor in due course, too.

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With Mazda also reportedly entertaining “a form of electrification” for the next Miata, it’ll be interesting to see how viable lightweight sports cars will be after gas engines disappear. It’s a niche of the automotive landscape no enthusiast wants to lose, though I suppose if anyone will be able to keep it alive, it’ll be Lotus.