Lotus could start building lightweight mass production cars by the year 2020. Several technical and production innovations are currently being investigated.
Lotus Engineering conducted two studies to look at the possibility of developing passenger vehicles from 2017. The specialised lightweight sports car maker says its long-time philosophy of weight reduction will benefit potential customers in the areas of fuel consumption and C02 emissions.
By studying and comparing its concepts to a benchmark Toyota Venza crossover, Lotus was able to achieve a 38% vehicle mass reduction, excluding the powertrain. For example, compared to the baseline Venza's 400-plus body parts, the 2020 model Lotus had only 211. Yet it retained similar interior and exterior dimensions, as well as key safety and quality characteristics as its counterpart.
The interior systems include 50% lighter seats, climate control hardware, navigation electronics and others. There is a high level of component integration for space maximisation and weight minimisation. An example is the audio/ air conditioning/navigation touch screen which also contains the shifter and parking brake functions. Chassis and suspension components are to be downsized, the glazing and width of the windscreen possibly reduced and replaced with an appropriate, lower weight substitute.
A low energy, low heat friction stir welding process used on high speed trains would be employed alongside adhesive bonding during the production process. Lotus expects the system, currently applied by some low volume automakers, to have mass production value by the time the car is production ready.
A second nearer-term vehicle was envisaged for the year 2017. Lotus says a mass reduction of 21%, excluding powertrain, was attained on this particular study.
See press release below for further details.