Lotus Announces Evora S and Auto… Where is the Hybrid?

When Lotus announced the 414E Hybrid version of the Evora sportscar this past February, the motoring world stood in awe. The car had innovative clean-burn technology built into its range-extending ICE/hybrid powertrain, 200 hp electric motors in each of the rear wheels, advanced torque-vectoring traction control, and arresting good looks that tastefully played up the cars electric pedigree.

A production model was announced.

Earlier this week, a leaked email from Lotus’ marketing staff revealed 2 new Evora models that would be announced at the upcoming Paris Motor Show. The 414E Hybrid Evora was not one of them.

Should we be worried that Lotus’ hybrid tech will go the way of Chrysler’s Lotus-based ENVI cars, or is Lotus just playing coy? More about what Lotus will (and won’t) be showing off to the Parisians this fall, after the jump.

UK-based magazine AutoExpress claims they have the inside scoop, on what will and won’t be on display in Paris, and they’ve said that 414E will not make its way on stage.

Lotus will, however, be showing the previously mentioned Evora Auto and supercharged Evora S coupes (not shown), as well as (shown left to right, below) a reborn Lotus 7 racer, a new Esprit supercar, and …

2 (two) new hybrid models making full use of the 414E’s electronic wizardry!

5 major model announcements at 1 auto show is quite a feat (something even major players like Ford and GM would have to struggle to accomplish, even with their significantly greater development resources). So, how did Lotus do it?

If you have a long memory and a (potentially unsafe) obsession with wheeled vehicles, you might remember Lotus’ APX “Versatile Vehicle Architecture” concept from the 2006 Geneva show.

That thing (above) is the mother and father of the new Lotus family (don’t worry – the kids are much better looking than their parents).

See, Lotus has been playing the long game for years – since Romano Artioli bought the company from GM in 1993, to be precise. Not too long after, Lotus announced the 1st-generation Lotus Elise, which used an extruded aluminum chassis bonded together using aircraft-grade adhesives. That chassis was a game-changer in many ways—it was light, it was strong, it was cheap, and it was flexible. “Flexible,” in this case, meant that it could be widened, shortened, lengthened, etc. without significant cost to Lotus. In theory, Lotus could use this same chassis to underpin dozens of cars—and they did! Lotus’ own Elise, GT1, Exige, 2-Eleven, and Europa can trace their roots back to the original Elise chassis. The Opel Speedster/Vauxhall VX220 twins, Dodge ENVI concepts, and Tesla Roadster also owe their existence to that same Elise.

Lotus’ Elise chassis couldn’t go on forever, but it wasn’t meant to. The world had changed since the early 90’s, and advances in CAD and finite-element analysis software meant that the pencil-and-paper Elise chassis was becoming a dinosaur.

Lotus engineers were no fools, though.  They saw the writing on the wall and developed a new extruded-aluminum architecture—showing the concept to the world in 2006 in the form of that awkward APX crossover thing (below, in case you’ve forgotten how goofy that thing really is).

Where the original Elise chassis could be lengthened and widened and re-skinned in dozens of different ways, it remained a mid-engine foundation to build mid-engined cars. The APX’s “Versatile Vehicle Architecture” however, was different. The VVA chassis could be set up with an engine in the front, in the middle, or in the rear. Its center “spine” could house batteries, drive-shafts, electronic cables, or HVAC systems for each passenger. With VVA, the possibilities were supposed to be endless.

1 chassis, developed 1 time, crash tested 1 time, tooled-up-for 1 time, which could be re-skinned as a coupe, GT, crossover, sedan, etc. No re-tooling the entire factory if you happen to sell more coupes and less sedans than expected—you just extrude a few aluminum panels to different lengths, and pop on the appropriate non-structural body panels.

Brilliant—and the first fruit of the VVA’s efforts, the Evora, has already spawned sporty versions, sportier versions, luxurious versions, and track-ready versions of itself, along with the hybrid 414E from Geneva.

Over the years, Lotus also showed off innovative internal-combustion tech that would allow its cars to easily switch from gasoline to ethanol to diesel fuel… and you can bet that the Paris Show announcements will include an update about the Omnivore engine program.

In Paris, the message from Lotus will be clear:  they’ve spent over 40 years as bit-players in the automotive world, and now they’re about to show everyone that they’ve been the smartest kids in the room all along.

PHOTO CREDITS:  AutoExpress, Group Lotus.

 

Jo Borrás

I've been in the auto industry 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the IM network. You can also find me on Twitter, at my Volvo fansite, or chasing my kids around Oak Park, IL.