Under ownership from Geely, British sports car icon Lotus has gone from trying to keep the lights on to producing the all-electric Lotus Evija hypercar: a land missile that promises 250 miles of range, 0-62 mph in less than three seconds, a staggering 2,000 horsepower and a top speed over 200 mph. It’s quite the thing.
And Lotus says it ushers in a new era for the company, one that’ll see it grow as never before and will give us all some shiny new toys to play with in due course.
At the Evija’s launch in London I had the chance to hear what some of the key players behind the car had to say, and the cliff notes go thusly: the Evija shows off the company’s new upcoming design language, there are new electrified cars coming, and even though parent company Geely owns a ton of other brands Lotus won’t simply be taking a platform and throwing a badge on it to launch something new.
(Full disclosure: I went to the Lotus Evija launch in London. I was invited to attend round table interviews to find out more about the car. The quotes in this article are from those interviews and have been gently edited for clarity.)
The key message for the event that Lotus is “for the drivers.” It seemed to punctuate every other sentence in the speeches given on stage, and in the interview room.
This is deliberate—Lotus wants to keep being known as a brand that makes cars for people who like to drive, and that’ll for the basis for every future model, whether it’s a sports car or not.
Speaking with Louis Kerr, Evija’s Principle Platform Engineer, about the car itself, it’s obvious that one of the car’s star attributes is the battery. This thing is a power monster. Boasting a two megawatt peak power (roughly 2,800 HP)output, and running at 1.4 megawatts (a smidge over 1,900hp) on the regular from its 70kWh battery, it’s not lacking for grunt. Each of its four electric motors deals out 500 HP to stick to the road.
But why that much? Two things. The first: a lap time.
“We set ourselves a particular lap time and wanted to achieve that and that drove the power and platform of the battery,” Kerr explained.
Which track? The Nürburgring, of course. The Nio EP9 is an obvious target for Lotus, and Kerr reckons the Evija will see it off comfortably.
The second reason is customers. According to Kerr, they prioritized performance over range, so that’s what they got. Still, 250 miles (on the European cycle, I should note) isn’t bad for regular driving. That’s better than a lot of EV city cars.
On track, at full pelt, Kerr explained that you’ll likely get 80 miles out of a charge.
Now, being an EV, the Evjia isn’t all that noisy but legally it needs to be audible below 12 mph to alert pedestrians in town that they might get smooshed. Kerr revealed that the team is working on it.
“We will make an artificial noise as is legally required,” he said, “and we’re going through a development process to work out what that noise is for Lotus today. That noise will become synonymous with Lotus. It can happen at all speeds, but only legally up to 12 mph. It’ll become the equivalent of an exhaust note.”
Kerr also said that the car is coming to the U.S. under Show and Display laws, so American Lotus fans can feel free to pop their orders in.
Russell Carr, Lotus’ Design Director, reckons his new Lotus that not only sets a bold new direction, but also looks back.
“From the current cars and past cars, you can say it’s a Lotus in the way the cabin sits, the hunches on the wheels, and the way we use sculptured surfaces on the cars,” he said. “And going forward we’re keen we can use the aerodynamics on the car to inform the design. In this instance we have a free hand, it’s an extreme car. If we’re doing a different car we’ll use it appropriately to that type of vehicle.”
The final design, according to Carr, is slightly different to the car we’ve all seen, but only in minor ways, the only real difference being the center lock wheel design.
That’s the (sort of) now, but what about the future. What will Lotus become now that its EV halo car is out in the open?
“We believe the brand can move in to other segments than just pure sports cars,” said Lotus CEO Phil Popham. “Whatever segments we’re considering we go in to we will only produce cars firstly that we can make money out of, secondly that can really carry the DNA of Lotus. That means focussing on the driving experience, performance, the dynamics, the aerodynamics. Any car we produce in future needs to be true to that.”
It also means you won’t see a lightly restyled Volvo XC60—borrowed from mutual parent company Geely—with a Lotus badge slapped on the front.
Lotus is looking at big things, and while Popham wouldn’t say what’s coming he’s confident that drivers will enjoy them. With Evija being an EV, the question of electrifying the range came up.
“Electrification is a part of our future,” he said. “Evija is our first step in there, if you discount the first Tesla being Lotus-designed and engineered... The next sports car that we bring in will [have] an internal combustion engine, we’re working on that at the moment. Beyond that car, every car we produce in whatever segment will offer a fully electric version.”
The next ICE car, Popham said, will be shown before the end of next year.
Lotus is set to grow, Popham commented, as the current capacity for the factory is roughly 5,000 cars a year, but that’s based one factory shift. With two that grows to 10,000. However, growth beyond that is on the cards should everything go to the firm’s business plan, and that’ll mean change.
Popham said: “We have opportunities to invest and manufacture in China, because of the infrastructure that Geely’s got, but we will probably outgrow Hethel and look to do something radical at Hethel or other facilities in the UK.”
Geely and Lotus, said Popham, are collaborating. Lotus’ engineering, aerodynamics and lightweighting skills are useful to the rest of the family. Why wouldn’t they be?
So what of autonomy? Autonomous cars are allegedly coming and will make us all like the humans in Wall-E, right?
Well, Popham sees it as an opportunity to create cars for the people who want to drive for fun, and rather than use autonomous tech to sideline the driver, it can be used to help them become better behind the wheel.
“There’s no doubt that electrification, connectivity, autonomous driving are key technologies that are coming very quickly,” he said, stating the obvious. “As that grows, our belief at Lotus is that desire for a driver’s car that you can actually use in your leisure time will grow as well. However, that said, of course we’re not going to ignore, and harness the tech that comes with autonomous driving. All the cameras, sensors, and computers that create an autonomous car… press a Lotus button and have the expert sit next to you. Telling you how to get the most out of your car. And, of course, the car could step in if you overstep the mark.”
Whether that appeals to true drivers or not remains to be seen. It’s an ambitious idea, for sure, and one that other brands like Porsche have hinted at too. I’ll wait to see if it gets implemented on actual car before I judge.
It must be noted we’ve seen Lotus promise huge change before. And we’ve seen the company crumble as a result. Now it seems as though it’s finally on the up.
Its partner, Geely, has breathed new life in to Volvo, and there’s no reason the same magic couldn’t work on the little sports car company from Hethel.
Whatever you make of the Evija and of Lotus’ future goals, you’ve got to admit that what they’re planning is truly ambitious.