► Lotus reveals £1.5m electric hypercar
► Type 130 name confirmed, first silhouette
► Chinese owner Geely backs new initiative
Lotus has confirmed the reveal date for its 'mind-blowing' new all-electric hypercar, the Type 130; set a calendar reminder for 16 July. Hethel has also confirmed that just 130 examples of the new car will be built, with deliveries starting in 2020.
Lotus boss Phil Popham says the new Type 130 will be ‘a mind-blowing hypercar, designed, engineered and built in the UK’. It will be, he told the FT Future of the Car Summit, the first all-electric British hypercar.
‘It will re-establish Lotus as a sports car maker,' he told attendees. 'A mind-blowing hypercar, designed, engineered and built in the UK. We’re very much focused on rebuilding the sports car business. When we’ve done that this brand has the strength to go beyond that. It could be GTs, crossovers, sporting sedans… the premium segment is large beyond sports cars. We have to produce cars that are loyal to our DNA.’
Batteries add heaviness...
The weight of batteries was, Popham said, a challenge to Lotus’s traditional values, but there were many pros as well as cons. ‘Lotus is about light weight. There are distinct benefits of electrification, certainly in terms of aerodynamics, and the centre of gravity can be low.’ He added: ‘We need to understand the needs of the customer. If you’re driving for 20 minutes on track, do you need the full battery pack?’
And what about the lack of engine noise? ‘People will get used to that. It’s really about the performance, the handling.’
Popham (above) wouldn’t rule out the use of self-driving tech, too. ‘In the city it can mean a car that will drive itself. In the countryside, press the button, take it to the extreme.
‘There’s a real opportunity to do things differently, focusing not just on the product but also on the experience. We won’t be technology-led but we will use it in a very Lotus way. As more technology comes, driving cars will not be for everyone. There’s a distinct, and probably growing, group of people who want the driving experience.’
Lotus Type 130: first confirmed at the Shanghai motor show
One of the biggest stories of the 2019 Shanghai motor show was confirmation of a new Lotus hypercar, under the Type 130 codename. At an exclusive dinner on the eve of the Shanghai show’s first press day, legendary British sports car brand Lotus formally confirmed the rumours that had been circulating for some time: it is in the advanced stages of developing an all-new, all-electric hypercar.
The first official rendering above reveals an elegant, low-slung, cab-forward silhouette with a long-ish tail optimised for aero and aesthetics, and which looks poised to take on the Pininfarina Battista and other ultra high-end electric hypercars. It will cost similar money too: unofficially, Lotus PRs project between £1.5-£2 million.
What’s the Lotus Type 130 name about?
Called the Type 130, Lotus is positioning the vehicle as the latest in a long line of ground-breaking sports and motorsports cars from the Norfolk-based manufacturer that have all started with the famous ‘Type’ prefix.
These include the Type 14, the world’s first composite monocoque production road car (the 1957 Elite), the Type 72, the most successful F1 car of all time and the Type 111, otherwise known as the 1995 Elise (above) and the world’s first aluminium and bonded extrusion construction production car.
CAR was in attendance in China when the announcement was made and talked exclusively to Lotus CEO Phil Popham about the car’s significance.
‘The Type 130 is important to illustrate capability, intent and design direction,’ he told us. ‘Those three things. It’s not a false dawn, there’s substance to the idea. Not only in terms of our ability to engineer a product but to actually engineer a product with new technology. It really showcases what Lotus could be, will be, and how much support we have from Geely.’
Geely’s takeover in 2018 had presented massive opportunities, he said. He wouldn’t confirm the size of the investment, but said the much-speculated £1.5bn over the next few years ‘is a little conservative’.
He said: ‘It’s a huge leap of faith by our shareholders. We’re currently making 1700 units a year. We’re going to grow exponentially. We’ll exploit China, Europe, the US to achieve that. We’re investing heavily in Norfolk, making a factory to build [Type 130]. My expectation is that we will expand [production] overseas as well. We’re opening an office in the Midlands, where a number of engineers will be based. There’s a lot of people joining Lotus for exactly the same reason of me: the agility of a start-up, but with the backing of Geely.’
What about a few more affordable new cars from Lotus?
The Type 130 effectively re-launches the historically much-loved but currently under-performing sports car brand with a new halo model but there is more to come.
‘The Type 130 is not going to be a volume car clearly, that’s just the start,’ Popham continued. ‘You’ll see another sports car next year which will be more volume-oriented, our focus is actually on sports cars short-term, but we will move into other segments as time moves on.’
Any other hints about the Type 130’s design and when we’ll see more?
Lotus’s design director Russell Carr told CAR this extra nugget of info on the Type 130’s form: ‘We spotted a trend in a lot of LMP [Le Mans prototype] cars where the airflow is managed not only over the car’s surfaces but also through the car too. That gave us a really interesting sculptural opportunity. This is an elegant and fluid car with some cues from the past and also a lot of modern detailing too.’
The official reveal of the final car with specification and full details is set to be in mid-2019, appropriately in London, the birthplace of Lotus 71 years ago.
Your full 2019 Shanghai motor show guide