In addition to launching an extremely interesting electric hatchback 5 concept on Thursday morning, Renault, by way of its Alpine sub-brand, announced a partnership with Lotus to build, well, something. There aren’t many details on the joint venture, but the French and British car makers “signed a memorandum of understanding to study a number of areas of cooperation, including the joint development of an EV sportscar.” This is definitely newsworthy, despite very little information being available as yet.
In addition to potentially jointly developing an electric sports car, the collaboration will also “leverage Alpine’s motorsport platform covering Formula One to Formula E and endurance.” Obviously Renaultsport ran a winning Formula E program from the very first season until the unit was rebranded and handed off to Nissan E.Dams ahead of the 2018-19 season. Alpine is also taking over Renault’s Formula 1 team this year as well as kicking off a one-year LMP1 program taking over the abandoned Rebellion team.
Nissan has already re-affirmed its continued belief in Formula E and likely won’t be dropping that arm of its motorsport, making it unlikely that the E.Dams team will come back to the French side of the paddock. However, with the recent announcements that BMW and Audi would be leaving FE, that opens an opportunity on the grid for an Alpine/Lotus to partner with Andretti or buy out Audisport’s abandoned charter.
If not Formula E, it could be an opportunity for Alpine to extend its efforts in sports car racing once its Rebellion-based 2021 FIA WEC assault is no longer eligible to compete. Working together to build a LMDh-classed prototype to take on Le Mans and Daytona could be another move forward. While not fully electric, the hybrid endurance racing model could play to both Lotus and Alpine’s strengths.
As for the joint-developed sports car for the street, I hope it’s much more affordable and lightweight and fun than the 2000-horsepower $2,000,000 Lotus Evija, while being a bit nicer and sportier than a Renault Zoe. Hell, I’d be perfectly happy with an Alpine-branded Zoe-based hot hatch with double the power and the same range. OH! What if Alpine took the Renault 5 concept and made a modern electric version of the R5 Turbo 2? That would be excellent.
Clearly there is a lot of potential for these two legendary brands to collaborate. The Alpine F1 team was Lotus F1 for a little while anyway, so the two brands are practically destined to collaborate, right?