From the show car room at Lotus Engineering in Sterling Heights, MI

Lotus Engineering cues media on future of automobiles with Technical Press Workshop

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In a rare private workshop following the week of The Battery Show 2011, Lotus Engineering brought together a small group of journalists to its Sterling Heights, Michigan office for a Technical Press Workshop, a review of its technologies that will define the cars of the future.

The Lotus Engineering Technical Press Workshop was comprised of five, one-to-one sessions over a 2-½ day period, from Wednesday, November 2 through Friday, November, 4. Torque News took the Friday morning slot, as I had already met Gary Haddon, Lotus Marketing Manager, at The Battery Show 2011.

According to the invitation, each Lotus Engineering Technical Press Workshop enabled media reps to learn about the latest innovations from Lotus Engineering in America, including the latest technologies in Powertrain Engineering and Testing; including electric drive efficiencies, fuel strategies, hybrid drives and non automotive projects.

The Lotus Engineering staff revealed much about their vehicle programs that included Lightweight Vehicle Architecture studies and Driving Dynamics projects.

After each workshop, the media was then able to view a number of new and exciting exhibits that included the 414E Series Hybrid Evora featuring a series hybrid drivetrain and a Sound Synthesis System designed for electric vehicles that has been on display at the Geneva Motor Show and more recently at Frankfurt.

Additional exhibits included the all new production Range Extender engines, both the 3 cylinder and 2 cylinder variants, their Hydrogen Fuel Cell London Taxi and the Tri Fuel 270E Lotus Exige, which this reporter viewed at The Battery Show 2011 in Novi, Michigan the week prior.

At the end of the workshop session, the media was offered an evaluation ride and drive in the Tri Fuel 270E Exige, Hydrogen Fuel Cell Taxi and a Lotus Evora. On Friday, though, the media reps seemed to be on a tight schedule.

One-to-One Sessions

At Friday’s session, I learned that only ten media reps would attend in total; and Friday morning’s session already had three, which included this reporter from Torque News. Frankly, I thought the place would have been packed, but SEMA was still in play in Las Vegas.

To set the stage, the usual history lesson was given about Colin Chapman, the founder of Lotus in 1952. He felt there was a two-way relationship between man and machine that had to be met; and he did this within a framework of four ideas:

1) Performance through light weight structures
2) Fun to drive
3) Great ride and handling
4) Innovations

Thus, Chapman’s philosophy was to engineer lighter racing vehicles rather than constantly just building larger, more powerful engines. Key to his many successes especially included vehicle handling, of which Lotus is still deemed the best in the world.

Organized as a corporate entity under Group Lotus, the subsidiaries include Motorsport, Lotus Cars and Lotus Engineering. Headquartered in Norfolk, England, other offices and entities exist in Europe, Asia and the United States. Michigan now has two; one in Ann Arbor and the other in Sterling Heights.

If there is one area that Lotus excels it has to be in the area of lightweight body structures. The Lotus team believes that 40% lighter bodies are achievable, but the cost is deemed in America as too high, as aluminum (or aluminium as they say in England), is much more expensive than steel; plus the changes in manufacturing processes are vastly different than in present auto plants.

However, Lotus believes emphatically that the industry still needs to view light-weight material costs amid all the savings that the rest of the systems will provide, because they do not need to be as powerful or in such large part counts.


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