The Lotus Evija: Is it a true Lotus?

The Lotus Evija
The 2020 Lotus Evija. Photo © 2019 Lotus Cars.

Could this be the future of “Simplify, then add Lightness?”

Lotus has finally revealed the all-electric hypercar they’ve been teasing for months, and now it has a proper name: Evija. The Lotus Evija is Lotus Cars’ attempt at chasing down the Tesla Roadster with a lightweight carbon monocoque chassis mated to a 2000 horsepower motor and the industry’s lightest weight battery pack. Tipping the scales at 1680 kilograms (3703 pounds), Lotus claims that the Evija is the lightest production electric hypercar to enter production. For comparison, the Nio EP9 weighs 1735 kilograms (3825 pounds).

The Lotus Evija
Photo © 2019 Lotus Cars.

Marbled carved by the wind

While the massive weight doesn’t seem very Lotus-like, the large swaths of bodywork seemingly carved out of the car does lend itself well to Lotus’ modus operandi. Done for the sake of aerodynamics and lightening, the Evija has openings practically everywhere. My particularly favorite angle of the car is from behind; where the taillight LEDs line the inside of the rear airflow exhaust. The massive rear diffuser with the integrated LED safety light is an interesting touch as well. Noticeably absent are the inclusion of wing mirrors. Instead, the car uses retractable camera pods behind the front wheels, leaving the profile of the car unfettered. Altogether, the car does look like a Lotus, with some styling references to the Lotus Evora and even the Danny Bahar Esprit concept car.

The Lotus Evija
Photo © 2019 Lotus Cars.

The styling continues into the interior, with the dashboard and center console being dominated by open spaces. Reminiscent of the tubular frames in some of Lotus’ cars from the 50s and 60s, the interior is pretty sparse. The climate controls, radio, and drive controls are all on the center console “blade”, and the only other decorations in the interior are the instrument cluster and the steering wheel. Inspired by Formula 1, the steering wheel is squared-off and simplified. All of the controls are compressed into the center of the wheel, with turn indicators, lights, cruise control, and other functions beings within thumb’s reach. The steering wheel is dominated by a single red dial that controls the driving modes, with five distinct settings. Lastly, a single multi-function display provides just the information you need according to the different driving modes.

The Lotus Evija
Photo © 2019 Lotus Cars.

The Bleeding Edge

Technologically speaking, the Evija is at the bleeding edge of electric vehicle design thanks to the involvement of Geely. While the power and speed of the car are nothing to scoff at, the time it takes to charge the batteries is leaning toward the realm of science fiction. Lotus claims that the Evija can completely replenish its batteries in nine minutes using an 800kW charger. Even when using a 350kW charger, the Evija would still take 18 minutes to completely charge. Thanks to its Williams Formula-E-derived drivetrain, the Evija has the lightest, most energy-dense battery pack ever fitted to a production car. The total range for this car is rated at 270 miles; comparable to the current generation Evora.

A true Lotus?

The Lotus Evija
Photo © 2019 Lotus Cars.

One question remains, however: Can an ultra-limited production car valued at $2 million be considered a Lotus? Honestly, I’m on the fence about this one. When I first wrote about the Lotus Hypercar, I claimed that such a car flies in the face of Colin Chapman’s ideals of what made a great sports car. The creed “Simplify, then add lightness” was more than a mantra; it was the formula for what made a Lotus, a Lotus. You don’t need massive amounts of power and displacement to make an engaging car. You just need a lightweight reinforced chassis and great suspension tuning. The Evora is probably the best car I’ve ever driven thanks to its incredibly stiff chassis and excellent suspension.

The Lotus Evija
Photo © Lotus Cars.

On the other hand, Lotus has always been introducing innovative technologies. In the 70s, Lotus dominated Formula 1 thanks to its adoption of ground effects. When Lotus was involved in sports car racing in the 60s, cars like the Lotus 23B were miles ahead of the competition thanks to Lotus’ innovative use of fiberglass and other lightweight materials. For Lotus to find a way to develop a lighter-weight, denser battery pack, they could potentially lead the way in making actual lightweight, electric sports cars for the masses.

The Lotus Evija
Photo © 2019 Lotus Cars.

While I still scoff at the existence of a $2 million hypercar Lotus for the son of a sheik, I have to hope that if this car is successful, some of that technology could trickle down to their more “pedestrian offerings”. Imagine an electric Evora with a similar drivetrain or even an Elise.

We’ll just have to wait and see.

The Lotus Evija
Photo © 2019 Lotus Cars.
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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?