Lotus Evija: world's most powerful production car revealed

by Matt Prior, Autocar UK 17 Jul 2019


Lotus has revealed the Evija, the all-electric hypercar it claims will be “the most powerful production car in the world”. An output of 1973bhp is promised when it hits roads next year, which is more than the upcoming 1888bhp Pininfarina Battista and Rimac C_Two, and the 1479bhp internally combusted Bugatti Chiron currently in production. 

No more than 130 of the two-seat hypercars will be built, each priced at £2.04 million. “Target specifications” include four-wheel drive, 1254lb ft and torque vectoring, giving it a 0-100kph time of less than three seconds, a 0-186mph time of less than nine seconds and a top speed of 200mph/320kph-plus. A production slot can be reserved with a refundable £250,000 deposit. 

The Evija, apparently pronounced ‘E-vi-ya’, will be Lotus’s first new-model launch under Geely ownership, and is the maker’s first all-new model for more than a decade. It will be made at the company’s traditional home in Hethel, Norfolk, and will act “as a ‘halo’ for the rest of the Lotus range” both now and for “new Lotus performance cars to come”. 

The car pictured here in a studio is for show, but Lotus’s design director, Russell Carr, told Autocar UK that “this is how it’ll be on the road. This is very much the production car. All the surfaces are made to production level.” 

The Evija, which is codenamed Type 130, is low and broad, at 4.59m long, 2.0m wide and 1.12m high. According to Lotus, it “marks the beginning of a contemporary new Lotus design language”. 

“We wanted from the start to do something that was pure, simple, but have a sense of luxury and elegance about it,” said Carr. “On the outside, we started by thinking ‘what are the existing factors from the Lotus DNA that we want to keep?’, and really important for us were the strong haunches you see on the car. It’s very important when you’re sitting inside that you can see the corners of the vehicle – it helps you place the car on the track. It’s also just a very emotional thing to see the bodywork; rearwards as well.” 

“We have the cabin sat low within those fenders, which are really important to us because the car’s all about dynamics,” said Carr, “and if the cabin sits low and the fenders are pronounced, you have the impression that the car’s got a low centre of gravity.” 

Around the overall design simplicity come some advanced aerodynamics (see Carr Q&A, below), which direct air flow over, under and through the car, creating a complex body shape with vast scoops running through the rear three-quarters, and exiting at the back. 

The design is permitted by the adoption of electric drive. “That certainly gives us a lot more freedom, yes,” said Carr. “You’ve obviously got battery packs that can be placed in certain places, and it’s certainly different from a traditional combustion engine, and we’ve tried to exploit that as much as possible.” 

Lotus hasn’t yet revealed how many electric motors the car will have or where they’ll be positioned, but its partnership with Williams Advanced Engineering – which is, among other things, the supplier of batteries to the Formula E grid – will be key to the Evija’s performance. 

Lotus said the Evija will have a 70kWh battery, capable of being charged at up to 350kW, enabling an 18-minute charge with a WLTP range of around 250 miles. The charge port is at the rear of the car. 

Construction is from carbonfibre, both for the chassis and the body. Light weight is core to all Lotus models and the Evija weighs several hundred kilos less than the Battista and C_Two are reported to be, although they have more battery capacity. Even so, at 1680kg, the Evija is likely to become the heaviest Lotus ever. Despite this, Lotus boldly claims it will “set a new standard for Lotus driving performance” and be “the most dynamically accomplished road car in the history of Lotus”. 

Inside, the carbonfibre construction remains visible in what’s a relatively spacious cockpit. “The start point is a floating beam, this open instrument panel you can place your hand right through,” said Carr. “The inspiration for that came from classic racing cars, from the 1950s and ’60s, in which you can see the structure. In those days it would have been tubular, but on this it’s carbonfibre. 

“We wanted to use carbonfibre, and once we got into that we started looking at wishbones on racing cars. We looked at modern racing bicycles as well, and that informed some of the sections and forms that go in there. And that’s really become a very distinctive part of this interior. If you love modern racing bikes or componentry on racing cars, you’ll recognise that.” 

“It’s a nice shape to use as well, with the wing profile, and adds a strong aeronautical flavour on the whole car. It’s very distinctive,” Carr added. “There’s a certain luxury to space and in such cars you can feel very claustrophobic. This feels open.” 

That’s in stark contrast to another upcoming hypercar, the Aston Martin Valkyrie, with the implication that the two British hypercars will be quite different, in ethos as well as propulsion. 

“We wanted, if this doesn’t sound ridiculous, a really usable hypercar,” said Carr. “The Evija is very much a road car. But obviously the performance credentials of this car mean that it can be driven on the track. 

“Certainly from our side the work we’ve done on the aerodynamics means that it’s going to be an extremely quick car, generating a huge amount of downforce, which means it can be driven at high speeds. It’s going to be a stable car wherever it’s driven.”

Q&A WITH RUSSELL CARR, DESIGN DIRECTOR, LOTUS CARS
Tell us about the way air moves around this car. 

“Something very Lotus which we’ve taken to another level is the aerodynamics. It’s always been part of our history and motorsport: in the ’60s we were among the first teams putting wings on cars, we had ground effects in the ’70s and streamlining way back in the ’50s. With this car, the philosophy was that we wanted to harness the airflow over the body of the car, but also through the body of the car. We’re not the first people to do it, but we wanted to do it in a very sculptural manner that would give a different aesthetic to the car.” 

What does that mean for aesthetics? 
“When you look at the car from the outside you see familiar volume, we hope a very beautiful-looking car. It’s important that it’s beautiful in the first place. But as you walk around it you start to see openings that go through the car, which allow the air to pass through. As I say, that gives it a different aesthetic, draws the eye through the car and over the car, and gives it a great sense of movement.”

Q&A WITH PHIL POPHAM, LOTUS CEO
Why have you chosen to build a car like this — so exclusive and expensive?

We believe that if you want to make ripples, you have to made a splash. If you want to be on the map, you have to make a mark. This car shows what our future can be like. It shows what we can do, and it paves the way for future visionary Lotus models.

Does it mean you’re planning a succession of hyper-expensive models?
First of all, our 10-year plan which we call Vision 80, contains a commitment to be “for the driver”, first, last and always. Lotus models will always be at the heart of driver involvement and enjoyment. But the range of cars we have now runs from the mid-£50,000s to well over £100,000 and we see our core future models, apart from our new hypercar, as continuing to be in the that range. Having said that, we do believe the Lotus brand has the equity to go beyond where it is. But that’s not our immediate strategy.

What is your immediate strategy?
After we’ve built our 130 hypercars we’ll concentrate on rebuilding our core sports car range. We will have a combustion-powered sports car to show you towards the end of next year, for sale after that. Beyond that car, every Lotus, in whatever segment, will have a full electric version.

There’s been a suggestion that in your journey towards electrification you might skip hybrids all together...
That is certainly an option.

How much will you grow under the 10-year plan?
Let’s start from the beginning. We made 1700 cars last year, but as it currently stands Hethel make over 5000 on a single shift. That means over 10,000 on a double shift — and I believe we’ll outgrow Hethel in its current guise. After all, we have an ambitious plan to move into new segments.

What will you do when you’ve outgrown Hethel?
We can either do something radical at Hethel, or we can move somewhere else as well. But it’s important to say that making cars in different locations wouldn’t change the DNA of the company. We won’t build anything unless it’s a) profitable, and b) can be called a true Lotus. And we’d never make same car in multiple locations.

Isn’t your “for the driver” strap-line rather time-limited? Surely we’re moving closer and closer to full autonomy?
I don’t believe it will become time expired. Progress with other, much bigger manufacturers tends to focus on mobility and ownership models, which are leading to cars becoming commoditised. But a Lotus will always be a car to use and enjoy in your leisure time. But we’ll certainly harness some of the great technology of the future.

How do you believe Brexit is affecting Lotus?
Our message to the government over the past three years hasn’t changed: we just need to get this deal done. And it now looks like that’s what will happen. Even if we exit without a deal, we believe other deals will be done; we have hundreds of years of history as a trading nation to help us through. Meanwhile at Lotus we’re taking short-term contingency steps. We’re planning for some disruption. But nothing about Brexit will change our core strategy.

Also read: Lotus and Williams partner to develop 'Omega' hypercar

Lotus confirms forthcoming all-electric hypercar