Lotus Elise: Electric Vehicle
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Lotus Cars have been in the forefront of car design for many years, and recently produced the stylish new Elise. More remarkable even than this super-streamlined machine is that a prototype electric-powered, zero-emissions version has been developed in the UK by Zytek Automotive (see car of the month in Arkive 5).
The electric Lotus Elise is capable of 200 bhp, quashing any notion that high speed and performance can never be associated with an electric vehicle, and that all clean and efficient power is destined to do is trundle around our neighbourhoods delivering milk.
Howard Dyke talked to Andrew Hill of the Lotus design team.
For many years Lotus have enjoyed pioneer status in the field of automotive design. Do you feel you are still at the cutting edge of innovation?
Yes. With the Elise, Lotus has introduced a number of new and innovative ideas including the first bonded aluminium extruded chassis in a production car.
Is the collaboration with Zytek a sign that future pilot projects will be undertaken in partnership with specialists from parallel fields?
Yes and it is part of our product development policy to continue to enter into these types of strategic partnerships. In fact during the development of the Elise we worked in collaboration with a number of suppliers to utilise their specialist knowledge, in particular we worked with Ciba-Gige to develop the glue used to bond the chassis.
Where do Lotus recruit the majority of their designers, from the UK or abroad?
Are they generally design graduates, or do some arrive via the engineering route?
Within the design/styling studio they are all design graduates.
Are the design graduates all from the automotive design course or do any have a general product design background?
Usually either from the automotive design course at Coventry or the MA course at RCA.
It could be stated that the production and marketing of high performance vehicles runs contrary to the notion of a sustainable environment. If this is the case, can these vehicles be produced and used in ways that create minimal harm?
Yes, again the Elise programme demonstrates what can be achieved by designing a vehicle to be as light as possible. The Elise gains its class- leading performance through low weight which allows the Rover K-series 1.8 engine to return fuel consumption figures of high 30s and low 40s mpg even when driven hard. Furthermore we see the design of the Elise as being very classical which will require little in the way of 'face-lifting' during its lifetime.
Could the Lotus design criteria accommodate that? Yes, in fact it is a Lotus policy to promote the fact that vehicle weight reduction is one of the best ways to increase the efficiency of any new vehicles being designed.
Is awareness of the need for product 'sustainability' a pre-requisite in Lotus design's team recruitment? Not really, but Lotus will always be looking to recruit the most innovative engineers and designers.
Does Lotus have a stated environmental policy regarding manufacture and end-product use? We have no stated policy but as already discussed, it is a fundamental requirement in the way we approach the design of new vehicles.