We already know the twin peaks in Lotus's decidedly rosy future: the launch of the Evija hypercar and the introduction of an all-new sports car in 2021. But that does not tell the full story of the firm's newfound ambition. As we've noted before, building comparatively low volume models is one thing; building buildings and things to put in them is quite another. Thus we should treat news of Lotus's broader investment with no less glee than we do the prospect of shiny new product.
Witness the amount of money being poured into its consultancy division, Lotus Engineering. The 40-year-old arm is the recipient of 'multi-million-pound investment' intended to meet the global ambitions of the Geely-owned brand - and in this case, more money brings upgraded facilities and hardware, and also a restructuring of services, meaning (we hope) more cars and technology in the automotive world bearing the Lotus seal of approval.
Naturally some of this is just about bringing the wider company up to snuff after so many fallow years. But the rest of it points to the new and exciting direction Lotus is unequivocally heading in. Today's announcement says it is adding a new Electric Drive Unit (EDU) test cell to its world-famous headquarters, and upgrading the engine test and development rooms, as well as its 'Propulsion Prototype' build workshop and vehicle emissions lab. The famous 2.2-mile Hethel test track, a feature of the site since Lotus moved to Norfolk from Cheshunt in 1966, has also received new barriers and full camera coverage, making it ready to safely host testing and development through the 2020s. These additions are alongside the new factory that will produce the 2021 sports car, as well as the Evija's assembly hall, and follow on from the government grant to fund its 'Lightweight Electric Vehicle Architecture'.
Four decades since Lotus Engineering inception, it means the division can offer a wider range of technical and consultancy services than ever before. Models to be created by the arm include the Lotus Cortina, Lotus Carlton, Lotus Sunbeam, not to mention the many other Lotus-tuned models which have typically delivered terrific handling. By adding to its technical armoury, Lotus Engineering is obviously expected to expand far beyond the expertise it has built its reputation on.
Clearly much will hinge on lessons learnt with the Evija. The project places Lotus's innovation with electric powertrain packaging aerodynamic features right in the shop window. Indeed, Matt Windle, Lotus's executive director for engineering said: "We see huge potential to put Lotus Engineering right at the cutting edge of automotive innovation, further building on our core competencies as well as increasing our capability in growth areas. An example is electrification; the challenges around weight reduction and improved dynamics are a major factor in the quest for more efficient electric vehicles, and those link back directly to the Lotus core values".
To simplify the way it offers such services, Lotus Engineering has structured its work into three pillars: Experience, which focusses on tuning how a car and its features are engaged with by the user; Platform, which centres around the structure and propulsion tech; and Dynamics, which includes handling, lightweighting and chassis tech, as well as aerodynamics. In short, there's a lot going on behind the scenes which must've required months and months of powerpoint presentations. Now Lotus is beginning to bear the fruit of that process. Roll on 2021.
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