When you think of Lotus these days, the word Proton comes to mind. The Malaysian government owned car company bought out Lotus in 1996, and ever since then, every time proton releases a new car, "Lotus inspired handling" is used in their advertising campaigns. Having actually driven the Proton Gen 2, I can honestly say that if it took Lotus to get the Gen 2 to handle like it does, than god help all the other non-Lotus inspired protons
Anyway, if we simply close our eyes and forget that Lotus is owned by a Malaysian car manufacturer and think positively, we will come to this, a prototype version of the Lotus Exige S which is not only the most environmentally friendly lotus, but also the most powerful, incarnation of the lightweight sports car produced so far.
Lotus says that Increasing concern for global warming issues and the depletion of fossil fuel reserves led Lotus engineers to look at a number of different concepts aimed at delivering a more environmentally friendly package without sacrificing performance. The ultimate performance car that you won't feel bad about driving.
The research vehicle is a true Lotus, weighing in at just 930 kg and boasting a massive 197 kW (265 horsepower). The car is a prototype developed to explore more environmentally friendly ways to power Lotus sports cars and at this stage there is no firm plan to put the car into full production.
The Exige 265E has been designed to run on bio-ethanol E85 fuel containing 85 percent renewable ethanol alcohol and 15 percent petrol. Key to the 265E's performance is its modified 2ZZ VVTL-i supercharged and intercooled, high revving 4-cylinder engine, as used in the standard Lotus Exige S.
Although it is significantly kinder on the environment the experimental Exige 265E delivers performance figures that would thrash the majority of 'Super-Unleaded' performance cars, accelerating from 0 to100km/h in just 3.88 seconds and from 0 to 160km/h in 9.2 seconds.
Lotus believes the Exige 265E is arguably the world's quickest road-legal bio-ethanol car with a top speed of 252km/h. I think Lotus have really hit a new benchmark for green performance motoring, with 0-100 figures below 4 seconds, this car is faster than most Ferraris!
Lotus engineers have made key changes to engine calibration and the fuel system as well as enlarging the four fuel injectors mounted on the inlet manifold to enable the use of bio ethanol rich fuel. Additionally, two fuel injectors have been fitted at the supercharger inlet to increase the amount of fuel being injected in to the engine under higher engine loads and to further cool the charge air prior to combustion.
The bio-ethanol can be made from bio-mass plant crops such as cereals, sugar beet, sugar cane and wood. These plant crops absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere as they grow partly offsetting the (CO2) emissions produced in the car's engine.
The Lotus Exige 265E produces maximum power of 197 kW at 8000 rpm, and 249 Nm of torque at 5500 rpm. This equates to a 21 percent increase in power and a 16 percent increase in torque, compared with the standard petrol engine Exige S.
The Exige 265E has a power to weight ratio of 211 kW/tonne. Which is a LOT. According to Geraint Castleton-White, head of Powertrain for Lotus Engineering, the rationale behind the Lotus Exige 265E is to prove the point that green sportscars can also still be very high performance sportscars.
"The fact that we have produced a research version of the Exige that is more powerful than the standard road car is a testament to the benefits of going green, this vehicle demonstrates our engineering capabilities and enhances our understanding of flex fuel vehicles and our knowledge of emerging fuel technologies, it also promotes bio-ethanol as a fuel of choice for the enthusiastic driver as well as the environmentally conscious driver". said Mr Castleton-White.
Chief Executive of Group Lotus, Mike Kimberley, says the Lotus 'Green Strategy' is actively pursuing technologies that will improve the efficiency and environmentally friendliness of engines in the future.
"Carbon dioxide reduction is a priority, as is anything that can reduce our reliance on fossil fuels," said Mr Kimberley.
"We are one of the world leaders in powertrain engineering especially in the internal combustion sector and we are researching into all areas of alternative and conventional fuels to get greater efficiencies, power, performance and reduce net emissions and Bio Ethanol research is one area where we are expert," he said.
"The problems that face the automotive industry at the moment are challenging, and these solutions fit with the Lotus culture and expertise," he added.
"We have decided to develop a thorough understanding of the techniques and technologies of what alternative fuels can achieve, to produce vehicles that are both fun to drive and environmentally friendly," he continued."We are also working, globally, on hybrid and electric vehicles together with governments and universities and as an engineering organisation we have a duty and a desire to promote these ideas to a worldwide customer base," he concluded
The Lotus Exige 265E is purely a research vehicle for Lotus Engineering and Lotus has no immediate plans at this stage to put the car into production or sell aftermarket kits for Lotus Cars. However I believe that if this car proves reliable and worthy, Lotus will be mad not to put this car into mass production!