2023 Lotus Eletre debuts – Lotus plugs itself into electric future
After Emira comes Eletre, Lotus’s first SUV, first four wheel drive car and its first series production electric car – you can’t really call the limited run, £2 million Evija hypercar a production model. It’s also the first Lotus to have been designed and developed on a truly global scale utilising all of the firm’s existing and recently created development centres, from its new technology centre in Wellsbourne, Warwickshire, to new R&D centres in both Sweden and Germany and, of course, Hethel. It will also be the first Lotus to be built outside of the company’s Norfolk home, with a new technology campus (they don’t really call them factories anymore) in Wuhan, China. Deliveries will start in 2023 for markets in the UK, Europe and China.
Being all of the above has meant Lotus has developed a new platform on which to build the Eletre, called Electric Premium Architecture (EPA). Once this SUV is up and running it will be further developed to create a Porsche Taycan rivalling saloon/GT car, and an all-electric sports car in the spirit of the Elise, which will also form the basis for a new Alpine electric sports car.
At the Eletre’s core is an aluminium and steel architecture that includes an integrated 800 volt, high-voltage network with the tailor made battery pack developed with British Volt that optimises cell density and charging efficiency. Together with the battery packaged between the front and rear axles are a pair of electric motors positioned at either end, giving the Eletre four-wheel drive capability. The motors, controller and reducer are integrated into a single three-in-one package to optimise weight and reduce the overall size of the powertrain.
Lotus is staying tight-lipped when it comes to precise numbers, but in terms of performance and power the communication is ‘from 600bhp’, three versions will be offered all four-wheel drive. A target specification of a 100kWh+ battery has also been confirmed, which on a 350kW charging network will allow a depleted battery to be mostly charged in 18 minutes. A 162mph top speed and a sub-three second zero to sixty time, with a range of circa 348 miles have also been confirmed.
All Eletre models will utilise air suspension, with active ride height control and active aero also included. Adaptive dampers, rear-axle steering, electric active anti-roll bars and torque vectoring via an electronic limited slip diff will also be available. As is all the rage, huge 23-inch wheels and carbon ceramic brakes will also make their way onto the options list.
Four drive modes will be included on all three variants: Range, Tour, Sport, Off-Road and a further Individual mode allowing a level of influence over the steering weight, damper settings, powertrain and accelerator pedal response.
If you are expecting a stripped to the bone take on an electric SUV you’ll likely be disappointed, as with so many of its ilk this is a car with enough anagrams to sink a Scrabble board. There’s Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) system to facilitate autonomous driving capability, there’s an optional Electric Reverse Mirror Display (ERMD) replacing the external wing mirrors as per Audi’s e-tron Sportback. And then there’s the active safety systems from adaptive cruise control and the hateful lane keeping assist software.
All this tech needs to go somewhere, which explains to some extent – but doesn’t in any way justify – why this is a Lotus that is as big as the outgoing Range Rover. It stretches to 5.1 metres long, it has a three metre wheelbase and is 2.2 metres wide if you don’t have the fancy electric mirrors fitted (it’s 2.1 metres wide if you do). A relatively low 1.6 metre roofline helps hide some of the size. Just. Interestingly, despite much talk in the media documents about lightweighting and following Colin Chapman’s dogged approach of adding lightness there’s no weight figure available other than it will weigh ‘under two-tonnes’. It will also cost ‘under £100,000' (Rs 99.12 lakh, before taxes and duties in the UK).
After spending 25 years designing derivatives of the Elise, the Eletre required a new design language like no other Lotus. There are hints of Lamborghini Urus in the nose, Kia EV6 in the rear and a lot going on across every surface. In the isolation of a photo studio proportions are hard to judge, but this is not the featherweight Lotus the company was founded on.
Inside is once again a quantum leap in terms of design and materials for a Lotus. Low carbon materials are used where possible, a large centre-mounted screen containing a majority of the control interfaces, with a further small, slimline instrument binnacle positioned in the driver’s eyeline. Having sampled the quality of the Emira’s interior, the Eletre’s will impress beyond the company’s new sports car.
After the Emira, this Eletre is a very different Lotus. It’s a global car that starts the company on its journey to electrification and a future where Lotus will no longer be a manufacturer of low volume, specialist sports cars. Just as the Cayenne set Porsche on its road to unimaginable growth twenty years ago, Lotus will be hoping its first SUV and the cars that follow will have a very similar impact.