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.

The Lotus Hypercar has a name now: The Type 130

The new Lotus Type 130 illustrated through computational fluid dynamic modeling, demonstrating it's unique lines and airflow.

- Lotus Cars, 2019
“For the Drivers…with $2.5 Million to burn.” 2019 © Lotus Cars

Though I made my thoughts clear on the Lotus Hypercar, I’m excited for Lotus’ new model. Today, we officially learned what this new car would be called: The Type 130.

The Type 130 Teaser. 2019 © Lotus Cars

Aside from bringing back the nomenclature from the classic years (Type 11, Type 23, etc.), the newly released video by Lotus centers around their new branding effort: “For the Drivers.” The presence of clips of past Lotus race cars and sports cars in addition to clips of their current line up indicates to me that Lotus is hoping to make a connection between it’s history and this new car.

The thing is, a $2.5 million 1000hp Hybrid is still such a radical departure from Lotus’ modus operandi I fear they could be risking alienating their fan base. On the other hand, a Halo car like this could bring the attention and revenue Lotus needs to start developing newer sports cars. Maybe this could also result in a push to sell more cars in the United States?

Either way, I’ll be watching this development very closely. At least this new car looks very interesting!

Bringing a Westfield Eleven Home

We set out into the darkness…

…RV loaded, trailer empty, and bodies caffeinated for the road ahead. Previously, we were partying with friends at the new Supercars and Salsa event we helped start. Now, we were on our way to Oregon for the promise of a Westfield Lotus Eleven; clad in black and red-lipped. After months of searching, a close friend of mine was realizing a dream; bringing home a vintage Lotus race car and completing a collection. This was not the first time a car like this found its way to us. On the other hand, this time was special because of the car we would be getting.

The car was a Westfield Lotus XI (Eleven); a car that could easily pass for the real thing at first glance. Westfield had built these replicas in the early ’80s as a kit, along with their version of the Lotus Seven. Using parts from an MG Sprite or Midget, the builder can recreate the magic of racing in the late ’50s. Furthermore, Westfield was also notable for the legal battle with Lotus regarding the rights to building the Seven and Eleven; a battle which resulted in Westfield ending production of their Eleven and Seven kits in the late ’80s. Today, a “pre-litigation” Westfield Lotus is a sought-after substitute for the real thing. This particular example was special, as it was the dream car of a man who would end up racing and caring for the car for 34 years. This man’s name is Don Erickson.

From Michigan to Alabama

We met Don on the street a short walk away from his house. He must have seen the RV/Trailer combo and the road-weary party walking around in slight confusion. Don was a tall, lanky gentleman with piercing blue eyes and a strong handshake. He led us up to the hill toward his house, where I noticed his mailbox painted a sporting red color. When I looked into the open garage, I could see the rear of a ’50s race car.

Our group made our way into the garage, and while everyone was gawking at this low-slung amalgamation of fiberglass and steel, I asked him to tell me the story of the car. He told me to wait a moment and went back into his house to retrieve something. I was sitting in the passenger seat of the Eleven playing with the toggle switches when he returned with a magazine. As soon as I saw the cover, I gasped. I was holding an issue of Road & Track with a white Lotus Eleven, dated March 1957.

Don told me when he was a teenager, he saw this issue of Road & Track and immediately fell in love with the Lotus Eleven. He promised himself that he would one day own that car. At last, his chance came almost 30 years later when he was looking through the classifieds of a kit car magazine and saw a listing for a red Westfield XI in Michigan. Immediately, he flew to Michigan and bought the car. Now, he had to figure out how to get the car back home to Alabama. What he told me next was nothing short of equal parts amazing and comedic. He jumped into his car with its 6-gallon tank, and drove the entire way back to Alabama only stopping when he needed gas, or to bail rainwater out of the cockpit!

“In hindsight…”, he told me, “…that was stupid. But, I was young then.”

Red to Black

In the 34 years Don owned the car, he had painted the car from it’s original bright red, to the svelte gloss black it is today. He left the original red color around the mouth of the car for the “lipstick” the factory Team Lotus Elevens were known for. He also modified the pedal box so that he could fit his tall frame into the driver’s seat and drive the car, but kept the original ’50s-style racing lap belts. The car had stickers from the many different events Don participated in, tastefully added to the interior and exterior of the car. The most prominent decal was the Sports Car Club of America roundel just past the front wheels, with its colors matching the colors of the car. Also present were various plaques and stickers celebrating past events in the ’80s and ’90s, including some awards. Don’s Eleven clearly had history.

After spending time looking over the car and swapping stories between the new and old owner of the Eleven, the time came to start the car. Everyone gathered around as Don undid the sprung latches and tilted the front clamshell over to reveal the tiny, 1275cc Series-A engine carefully placed into the Eleven’s frame. Don put the key in the ignition, pressed the starter button, and waited. The car sputtered at first, and then sprung to life. The car sounded just like the original Eleven’s at Le Mans, with a hoarse staccato coming from the engine’s tiny cylinders and through the exhaust. Don reached down and plucked the throttle cable, coaxing the engine to sing. Soon, the engine was screaming while Don held the throttle wide open. It sounded wonderful! After turning off the engine and closing the front clamshell, the time to make the final hand-off had come.

Another Chapter

I sensed a bit of hesitation from Don as my friend started getting the documents together. After caring for your dream car for the better part of 34 years you would be hesitant to sell it too. Although, for whatever reason or another, Don was not driving the Eleven anymore. He couldn’t let the car simply rot away either. It was better to find someone who is just as passionate and willing to drive the Eleven the way it was meant to be driven. Luckily, he found that in a fellow Lotus enthusiast.

My friend backed the car out of the garage and onto the cul-de-sac. He took one of his children in the passenger seat and promised to meet us by the trailer after he had a little “joyride”. Later, he pulled in behind the trailer with both him and his son grinning ear to ear. Soon after, we loaded up the Eleven destined for its new home in California and began saying our goodbyes to Don. I asked Don if I could write about him and the car since I thought the story of how he got the car was both interesting and funny. He gave me the go ahead, and I gave him my contact information so he could see the blog post and the pictures later on.

We said our final goodbyes after tying everything down and making sure the documents and extras were in order. Lastly, we piled into our respective transports and finally left towards California. This time, the trailer was just a hair over 1000 pounds heavier than we began. I sat at the dining table and began working on notes for what would eventually become this blog post as the city gave way to trees.

“Now,” I thought to myself; “The Eleven’s next chapter begins.”

Final Thoughts

I was sitting outside with my friend late at night at a Starbucks. We were looking at how the lights reflect off the curvaceous body of the Eleven. It hadn’t settled in that we left to Oregon and came back with a vintage British race car in tow. After taking a few pictures with my phone, my friend asks me something. “Do you think I should keep the paint?” Both of us had been talking about changing the color of the Eleven. However, I felt that to change the paint was to erase the history of the car and traces of Don. The change of ownership wasn’t a clean slate for this car. Rather, it was a new chapter in its history.

However, I felt that to change the paint was to erase the history of the car and traces of Don. The change of ownership wasn’t a clean slate for this car. Rather, it was a new chapter in its history.

“Nah, I ‘d keep the paint. It kind of has history to it.”