Opinion: A 1000HP Hybrid Lotus completely misses the point

The Hot Wheels Lotus 40th Anniversary Concept. Photo © TopSpeed.com

Lotus is reportedly making plans to create a 1000HP Hybrid Hypercar…

Is it just me, or does that statement seem kind of…wrong?

I know more than a few people that own a Lotus sports car. I also know a handful of people that have more than one Lotus. When I asked them what got them into Lotus in the first place, the most common answer is “Because they drive like nothing else.” Any Lotus is the culmination of a single ideal: to create a sports car that enforces the connection between man, machine, and the open road. To drive a Lotus is to eschew modern amenities for the sake of an unparalleled driving experience; without unneeded distractions, the need for more horsepower, and a high price tag. 

In other words, Colin Chapman said it best when it came to designing his cars: “Simplify, then add lightness.” A 1000HP Hybrid Hyper-Lotus then, would be the exact opposite of what a Lotus should be.

The Lotus Exige Cup 380; So fast and light, it could only be used on a track! Photo © Road & Track

When the Chinese automotive giant Geely purchased a controlling stake in Lotus back in 2017, a lot of Lotus owners held their breath. What would Geely do now that they controlled a small British sports car company with deep racing roots? Most feared that Geely would pivot Lotus from a boutique sports car maker into something that wouldn’t have stayed true to the brand, and Colin Chapman’s ideals.

However, with the introduction of newer and more powerful models of their current line up (including the fastest road-going Lotus ever, the Evora Sprint 430), most of those fears were abated. Recently, Geely announced plans to make a super SUV that utilizes Lotus’ suspension technology and tuning techniques, likely to be introduced as a vehicle under another marque within the Geely portfolio: Volvo. While that’s all fine and dandy (there have been cars with Lotus-tuned suspensions before, like the ill-fated DeLorean DMC-12), Lotus announcing that they are beginning development on a $2.2 million hypercar with a hybrid drivetrain seems to be a slap in the face of the brand itself.

When is a Lotus not a “Lotus”?

The fabulous 1991 Bertone-Lotus Emotion Concept. Photo © Motor1.com

Lotus has never been a super-exotic car marque like Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren, or even Bugatti. Anyone can learn to drive one without breaking the bank: Lotuses are not that expensive compared to other marques to own and maintain, and they have a cult following of like-minded and esoteric individuals who are simultaneously cocky and super-friendly (“Nothing drives better than a Lotus! Jump in; I’ll show you!”).

On top of that, Lotus cars are designed to follow Colin Chapman’s philosophy right down to the nuts and bolts. If a part is unnecessary, it’s tossed in an effort to save as much weight as possible. And with a lightweight car, minimal amounts of power is needed in order to create a sporty driving experience. This was how the legendary Lotus Seven was created. It was essentially a go kart with some creature comforts like lights, electric start, and not much else. Therefore, if Geely does create a Lotus hypercar with an electric hybrid drivetrain making over 1000HP, it can be argued that it’s no longer a Lotus since it’s such a large departure from what Lotus should be.

The “Lotus” Alternative

The “Blue Lightning” Electric Lotus Evora. It uses the battery pack from the Chevrolet Volt, mated to the Tesla Model S 85 drive unit. Photo © OnPointDyno.com

Instead of spending ridiculous amounts of money developing a one-off hypercar with an electric hybrid powertrain, why not refocus on developing a lightweight car designed to take an existing electric powertrain? Several car companies have already used the Lotus Elise as a template for a sporty, fully electric car, including Detroit Electric’s SP:01, and the original Tesla Roadster. However, the design limitations of the Elise chassis meant that the hardware had to be designed around the body. This meant that room for the AC motors and the battery packs were severely limited, which translated to lower ranges for these electric sports cars.

Instead, Lotus could use existing hardware, and then design a lightweight chassis to house the powertrain. In fact, Lotus has always used off-the-shelf parts for developing the engines for their sports cars. The engines used in the Elise, Exige, and Evora are all Toyota engines with Yamaha-tuned top-ends. What’s not to say that Lotus couldn’t take the engine and drivetrain from the Prius Hybrid, lighten the engine and the battery pack, and then wrap the whole package in a new chassis design based on an existing product? Maybe Lotus and Geely could develop a faster, electric successor to the Elise, or even the Evora?

In the end, it all boils down to market share. Lotus has captured less than 0.01% of the European Market since 2001. Even if Lotus were to develop an electric sports car using existing technologies, then they would have to build to volume in order to recoup the the money spent in development. If that’s the case, then it does make sense to build a multi-million dollar hypercar. 

That being said, Geely runs the risk of alienating the core fan base of Lotus by developing this proposed hybrid hypercar. Then again, if it does help Lotus recoup losses because of it’s minuscule market share, we’d all have to be content with Colin Chapman rolling in his grave.

Maybe we could hook up a dynamo to him then?

Old and New: The Dowsetts Classic Cars Comet

The brand new Dowsetts Comet; British Retro-futurism at it’s finest! Photo ©Autoclassics

Retro done right…

One of the biggest issues I have with car design today is the fact that there is such an emphasis on efficiency and aerodynamics that most new cars are starting to look alike. I’m willing to bet that if you were to take all the popular sedans, de-badge them, and then line them up next to each other, it would be very difficult to tell them apart. In addition to the current design trends, you have the introduction of electric drivetrains, which further serve to drive the emphasis on efficiency. Coupled with the lowering popularity of manual transmissions, cars are starting to become more like appliances than actual objects of desire.

That being said, with the introduction of fully-electric drivetrains, the beginnings of a new trend are started to take hold. Manufacturers like Jaguar are making a bet: now that electric drivetrains are becoming more commonplace, why not revisit the classic designs of yesteryear? Jaguar introduced the E-Type ZERO, a special electric conversion of their famous Series 1 E-Type sports car in order to capture the burgeoning market of classic car design with modern electric technology. And now, a newcomer to this market has made itself known: the Comet.

I count at least 4 different timeless design cues taken for the Dowsetts Comet. Photo ©Carrie Wilson

The brainchild of TV personality and unabashed car enthusiast Ant Anstead, the Dowsetts Classic Cars Comet looks like something that could have easily been a world beating sports car in the 1960’s. With a design that evokes past sports cars from the golden age of car design, like the Aston Martin DB4, the Jaguar E-Types and D-Types, the Alfa Romero TZ2, and even the Maserati Pininfarina A6GCS/53, the Comet is already setting the car design world ablaze with its good looks and modern amenities.

Paired with the all-aluminum (or aluminium for our friends across the pond) 6.2L LS3 small-block V8 from Chevrolet, the Comet can reportedly accelerate from 0-60 miles per hour in under four seconds, and look amazing while doing so. It seems a shame that it’s that fast; I’d rather just cruise on by and feel everyone’s gaze turn toward me! However, the rev-happy small block LS3 isn’t the only choice of drivetrain for this masterpiece of retro-futurism. Dowsetts also offers the choice of a fully electric drivetrain.

The Comet, posed next to the Handley-Page Victor V-Bomber. Photo ©Carrie Wilson

With this car, you can have all the looks of a classic golden age sports car, with the technology of today’s efficient electric drivetrains. Details are still pending on the final mechanical design of the car, however. According to Autoclassics.com, the debut car used a Tremec 5-speed transmission, a limited-slip differential, and a De-Dion-style rear end. This is likely to change with the introduction of the proposed electric drivetrain. Furthermore, the current mechanical setup is also likely to change as the car nears production. You could possibly have your choice of a 5-speed or 6 speed transmission later on, but this has not been confirmed.

The aesthetic mix of classic and modern is carried into the interior a mix of materials and surfaces. Paired with the classic-style wood-rimmed and airbag-less steering wheel, white face gauges, and supple quilted leather, is a mix of polished aluminum surfaces, buttons, and a touchscreen infotainment system. The end result is a fusion of truly retro-futuristic designs inside and out.

The Comet interior. Photo © Autoclassics.com

Is the Comet the latest example of a new trend of retro-futuristic car design? Hopefully the answer is yes; I’m starting to get tired of cars that look like soap bars!

More information on the Dowsetts Classic Cars Comet and Comet Barchetta can be found on Dowsetts Twitter and Instagram. The full website will be coming soon.