Lotus is promising that its first electric sports car due in 2026 will be as revolutionary in its construction as the first Lotus Elise of 25 years ago.
The now not-so-secret component to make this happen is a new modular structure that can be used for a range of new models of varying size and power. The part they will all have in common is a rear subframe which – true to Lotus form – puts weight-saving first. Lotus says this part of the car weighs in at 37 per cent less than the equivalent structure in the Lotus Emira V6.
We could try to explain how this blueprint for Lotus’s electric car future works but we are not going to bother – the animation Lotus has produced shows things much more clearly. It is a must-see for anyone interested in understanding how a bit of Lotus brilliance can make electric cars of the future go together so efficiently.
As you will see, the new structure, dubbed Project LEVA (Lightweight Electric Vehicle Architecture), is virtually a “plug ‘n play” system that allows for different wheelbases, battery sizes and one or two motors up to a maximum power output of 872PS (650kW).
The new structure also allows for different battery layouts for different types of car. A “chest” of cells behind the two seats is the “mid-engined” solution for sports cars. The more common “skateboard” layout, with a slab of batteries under the floor, is proposed for larger cars like the 2+2 that Lotus alludes to.
LEVA cars will be built at Hethel, Norfolk, suggesting that other confirmed future Lotus models like the SUV and the four-door coupe, both of which will be built in China, will use a different structure. In fact, Lotus says the E-Sports architecture is one of four Lotus-developed chassis that will underpin future models.
The first time we will see an LEVA Lotus will be in 2026 when the firm is due to release its first all-electric sports car, the two-seat Type 135. The entry version of this new sports car – the first electric Elise if you like – will have a wheelbase of 2470mm, battery capacity of 66kWh and a single rear motor providing 469PS (350kW), according to Lotus figures.
The structure will also underpin the Alpine version of this car – an electric replacement for the A110 that Lotus and the French firm are jointly developing. LEVA may also pop up elsewhere since Lotus Engineering says it wants to sell it to other carmakers. The research project to develop it has been partly funded by the UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
A quarter of a century ago Lotus made a similar splash when it announced the Elise and its innovative lightweight extruded aluminium chassis. The man who developed that, Richard Rackham, is now head of vehicle concepts at Lotus and the engineer who led the LEVA project.
Richard told us: “Project LEVA is as revolutionary now as the Elise architecture was in 1996. In true Lotus spirit, significant weight savings have been achieved throughout, with a focus on ultimate performance, efficiency and safety being engineered into the structure from the outset.”