With ground broken on a new high tech factory in China and a whole new family of sporty cars to start rolling out from 2022, Lotus is moving fast to become a larger presence than they ever were since the British firm’s 1948 founding.
Mere weeks have passed since Lotus unveiled their latest mid-engine machine, the Emira, to replace the ageing Evora, currently Hethel’s only volume production model with the demise of the Elise and Exige.
In addition to following a tried and tested formula, it’s a car that adds plenty of new concepts over what we’ve seen from their previous efforts. Importantly, with the announcement that the brand will be fully embracing electric drive, it might very well be their final combustion-powered model.
With that begins Lotus’ next phase, and an impetus to populate the line-up with a revamped selection of all-new, highly desirable, and highly competitive offerings. At the centre of this is an upcoming £900 million (RM5.141 billion) production facility in Wuhan, China, a location that’s become infamous over the past 2 years.
This location will be a major base of development and operations for Lotus once it reaches completion in 2024, headquartering the automaker’s technology and research division. It will also be the birthplace of two Chinese-built EV models due to arrive in the next 5 years, as confirmed recently.
The Type 132, which began work in 2016 and should be in its late stages of development, will be Lotus’ first fully electric model as well as the brand’s first SUV. Positioned as their ‘mass’ model, in both weight and production volume, this yet-unnamed contender will be joined by the Type 133 electric four-door coupe in 2023 and the larger Type 134 D-segment electric SUV in 2024, all built on shared EV underpinnings from parent company Geely.
Reportedly, battery capacities will range from 92kWh to 120kWh and are equipped with an 800V electrical architecture that supports the industry’s latest DC fast charging protocols. Exacting specifications remain mysterious but expect dual-motor all-wheel drive for at least 600hp and a 0-100km/h sprint time under 3 seconds.
As revealed by Li Bin, founder and CEO of Shanghai-based EV maker NIO, with whom a new partnership has been inked, the Lotus Technology campus and factory will have the capacity to produce up to 150,000 vehicles per year. The days of Lotus being a niche, low volume sports car maker is truly in the past.
The Wuhan facility will also be the first-ever to house an “integrated intelligent test track” with the ability to have cars manoeuvre themselves into different workshops as needed, fully autonomously, and even drive themselves at speeds of up to 225km/h around its 16 corner proving course.
With a fresh range poised to tackle the highly popular (not to mention lucrative) SUV and electric space simultaneously, Lotus will then move on to a project more rooted in its sports car history. For now, it’s called the Type 135, which was recently revealed to be developed in partnership with Renault-owned French performance marque Alpine.
The low slung Type 135 will be fairly lightweight and compact in dimension but exceedingly powerful for its size - smells like an Esprit. Built at Lotus’ home in Hethel like the current Emira and Evija hypercar, the company seems committed to retaining their British DNA, with their centre in Norfolk responsible for much of the brand’s global sales and coordination efforts.
There's just something about cars. It's a conveyance, it's a liability, it's a tool; but it can also be a source of joy, pride, inspiration and passion. It's much like clothes versus fashion. And like the latter, the pursuit of perfection never ends.