Lotus joins industry shift to all-electric thumbnail

Lotus joins industry shift to all-electric

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LONDON — Lotus Cars will only produce electric cars by the “late 2020s,” CEO Matt Windle said.

The UK sports-car maker, owned by China’s Geely, is the latest automaker to commit to an all-electric future as the industry shifts from combustion engines amid tightening emissions regulations in major markets such as Europe and the U.S.

Lotus’s all-electric strategy was finalized in 2018 after positive customer feedback, Windle said. “We took the decision to go straight to EVs after the Elmira, which was already in development,” he said.

Lotus will unveil the combustion-engine Elmira on July 6 ahead of its sales launch next year.

Legislation, customer demand and the environmental impact were factors in the strategy shift, he said.

Lotus’s first full-electric sports car will be the Evija, a 1.7 million-pound ($2.4 million) hypercar that will be the brand’s halo model, with deliveries starting this year.

Lotus’s second full-electric model is likely to be an SUV-styled car. The company has not disclosed what body type it will be.

Windle said the vehicle will use a new premium platform called Evolution that Lotus is developing in-house. The EV will arrive “within two years,” he told Automotive News Europe.

Windle said products off the Evolution non-sports car platform would be “somewhat different” from Tesla’s cars. He referenced Porsche as a competitor.

The model derived from the Evolution platform will have the Lotus sporting DNA even though it will compete in a new segment for the brand, Windle said. “It will be one of the best cars to drive in the segment and it will be one of the lightest cars to drive in its segment,” he said.

The platform will be offered to other Geely group brands and also to outside customers through the Lotus Engineering, consultancy arm, Windle said. He gave no details of possible use with Geely’s brands. Geely owns Volvo, Zhejiang Geely Holding Group’s other brands include Volvo, Lynk & CO, Proton and British taxi maker LEVC.

Geely is developing its own electric platform called SEA for Sustainable Experience Architecture that it will offer to other companies.

Geely’s new Zeekr brand will use this architecture.

Lotus has also begun work on an electric sports car platform with Renault’s Alpine brand, which will yield a successor to the Alpine A110 as well as a Lotus version, arriving around 2025/26.

“The challenge I have set the team is to try and produce an electric sports car that weighs the same as Elmira, which is a real stretch target for them,” he said. Lotus has not disclosed the Emira’s weight ahead of its July 6 unveiling.

Battery weight is a big issue for sports-car makers looking to build light, affordable replacements for combustion-engine cars.

Geely said it will invest “more than 2 billion pounds” in Lotus after it bought a 51 percent stake in the UK company in 2017. The investment is financing new manufacturing facilities and product development.

About half of the investment has been spent, a Lotus spokesperson said.

Upgrading the manufacturing facilities at Lotus’s based in Hethel, eastern England will increase annual production capacity to 5,000. This year the company expects to build around 1,600 models, Windle said.

Cars from the electric premium platform will be built in China in a new Geely plant that is being built in Wuhan, China.

The UK’s Bentley, owned by Volkswagen Group, and the Jaguar marque, owned by Tata Motors have said they will become electric-only brands.