Electrification is rapidly spreading through the car industry, but until now it hasn’t got to the very top. That’s set to change with the 2022 Lotus Evija to become the first EV supercar to reach buyers despite COVID delays.
Final development work is being completed now and deliveries will start at the beginning of next year. But, before then, CarAdvice has been the first Australian media to have a chance to experience a prototype version on Lotus’s Hethel test track. And even some way short of its final production spec, the Evija proved to be spectacularly, almost painfully, fast.
But impossible though it sounds, the Evija is set to make it look like a bit of a sluggard in terms of acceleration, if not top speed. Bugatti reckons the Chiron can blast from 0–300km/h in just 13.6 seconds, which is a truly remarkable feat given the physics involved. Lotus says that once running at its full 1470kW output, the Evija will be able to dispatch the same benchmark in just nine seconds.
|2022 Lotus Evija|
|Engine||4x 375kW AC motors, one per wheel|
|Power||1470kW (total system, targeted, production version)|
|Torque||1704Nm (total system, targeted, production version)|
|Transmission||Single-speed reduction, one per motor|
|Weight||1680kg (targeted, production version)|
|0–100km/h||Less than 3.0sec (targeted, production version)|
|Top speed||Over 320km/h (targeted, production version)|
The prototype Evija wasn’t making full power when I drove it, being restricted to a peak of no more than 1200kW through its four electric motors. It was also missing some of the features the finished car will have, and running without active aerodynamics, active suspension or torque biasing.
Lotus’s first EV is also the company’s first all-wheel-driven road car, but the prototype’s front-to-rear torque split was fixed to 23:77 and it was also running without stability or traction control, and with a 240km/h speed limiter. The production version will be capable of more than 320km/h.
But even short of its full glory, the Evija proved itself ludicrously fast. A full-bore launch produces similar g-loadings to the ones I’ve experienced in quicker Teslas – pretty much those of a frontal impact in reverse. But while the acceleration of most EVs tails off quickly as they get towards 160km/h, the Evija kept pulling at what felt like an undiminished rate, all the way to that pesky speed limiter – one whose intervention arrived what felt impossibly early on Hethel’s longer straights.
Yet, strangely, the Evija doesn’t feel as fast as it is, lacking almost all of the sound and fury that normally comes with this level of performance. It isn’t silent in the cockpit. The two electric motors that power the front wheels provide a muscular hum under hard use, and there’s plenty of roar from the tyres and wind rush as speed rises.
But the absence of a screaming engine or the punctuation of changing gears creates a weird sensory vacuum, and a strange disconnect between the numbers on the prototype’s digital speed display and perceived velocity. (The production version will also have an artificially generated digital soundscape inspired by a Lotus 49’s Ford DFV to warn pedestrians of its approach at low speeds, but this won’t make a difference at speed.) Subjectively, it feels slower than the Chiron, despite being 50 per cent quicker.
The rest of the dynamic experience feels entirely Lotus-like. Chassis development has been led by the company’s long-serving handling guru Gavan Kershaw, now formally Director of Attributes, and although the Evija’s limits are considerably higher, the basics are very like those of the Elise and Evora.
Steering is light but full of feel – Kershaw insisted on keeping hydraulic assistance rather than a pure-electric rack – and delivers linear responses without the initial dartiness that many supercars use to indicate their keenness to turn.
The Evija also pivots around its centre in the manner of the company’s combustion models. The relatively tall mid-mounted battery was deliberately chosen instead of a lower underfloor pack for this reason.
The result is a car that feels impressively nimble and willing to change direction, with cornering line and attitude instinctively tweaked and trimmed through accelerator input.
Although light for a performance EV, the Evija still weighs a substantial 1680kg, with 718kg of that coming from the battery pack, but it doesn’t feel nearly that heavy on-track.
Grip levels were predictably high once the prototype’s Trofeo R tyres were warmed, though, and the Evija could be pushed surprisingly hard in Hethel’s slower turns despite the lack of traction management, although with a predictable lack of difficulty in persuading it into power oversteer.
Kershaw says Lotus’s development always gets the basic chassis optimised before adding active systems to the mix. The production car will have five dynamic modes – Eco, City, Tour, Sport and Track, with higher outputs restricted to the punchier settings – but the prototype was locked into what was the equivalent of Sport.
Lotus hasn’t disclosed the peak downforce figure the Evija will be able to make with its active aero systems fully working, although it admits that the figure will be substantial. The prototype’s rear wing was locked into what was obviously a high-downforce configuration, with the contribution evident in the car’s huge grip through Hethel’s faster turns.
But steering didn’t get heavier as downforce grew, nor did the Evija’s ride become harsh. Its suspension incorporates a Formula 1 style ‘heave damper’, which works when equal forces act on both sides, while still allowing the suspension of individual wheels to work independently. Seen in the workshop afterwards with the car’s bodywork removed, the intricate pushrod mechanisms look more like art than engineering.
As you’d expect for a hard-used prototype, there were some areas where the Evija felt unfinished. The test car’s brakes were running a very early ABS calibration, which triggered early and made shedding the car’s vast terminal speeds slightly more of a challenge than it should have been.
The brake pedal also softened noticeably after multiple fast laps, which was surprising given the presence of motorsport-grade Brembo carbon-ceramic discs behind the wheels. The prototype’s lack of regenerative braking seems to have been responsible for at least part of this according to the engineering team.
The other problem is one Lotus can’t be blamed for given the current state of the art on battery technology. Hard use devours charge at a prodigious rate. The production version is targeting a 400km range under the WLTP testing protocol, but full-fang track driving proved able to empty the 70kWh pack in as little as 15 minutes.
The Evija will support ultra-fast charging at rate of up to 800kW – which doesn’t exist outside of research labs at this point – although forthcoming 350kW chargers will be able to replenish the battery at a similar rate to that which enthusiastic use depletes it. Evija buyers who take their cars to track days are going to spend plenty of time standing around, though.
The other question after a day with the Evija prototype is whether Lotus is delivering the future ahead of the willingness of those with the budget for a seven-figure hypercar to pay for it.
The company admits it hasn’t sold out the proposed run of 130 cars, and might not do so. Although, it reckons that demand is likely to increase once potential buyers have the chance to experience both the car and its otherworldly performance for themselves.