Lotus mixes green with go
Traditionally Lotus racing cars were green – in the days before commercial sponsorship, at least.
But now the British sports car maker is proving that a high-performance, track day-oriented road car can be as environmentally green as it is potent – 250kph top speed and 0-100kph in a tad over five seconds.
Enter the Eco Elise, a car that capitalises on advances in green technology.
Lotus says the Eco Elise project promotes a different perspective on “green”, one that doesn’t revolve solely around CO2 emissions.
The car demonstrates Lotus’ intention to become the world’s green automotive consultancy.
Sustainable materials – hemp, eco wool and sisal – are used for body panels and trim and, combined with high-tech water-based paint, showcase what Lotus refers to as “new affordable green technologies”.
A green gearchange display has been integrated into the dashboard to promote greener driving.
All Lotus cars have red shift lights to help drivers extract the maximum performance from the engine, but in the Eco Elise, Lotus-designed software helps drivers maximise the engine’s fuel efficiency.
The green gearshift display is designed to ensure that gears are changed at the optimum point to reduce emissions and save fuel.
Solar panels have been set into the Eco Elise’s hemp hardtop to help power the electrical systems and give a means of renewable energy generation.
Lotus says that using the technology on more panels would make it possible to provide more power, especially on a larger vehicle.
Sustainable hemp technical fabrics have been used as the primary constituent in the high quality A-class composite body panels and spoiler.
Lotus uses the hemp with a polyester resin to form a hybrid composite, however it is hoped that a fully recyclable composite resin will be viable in the short-term future.
Lotus says the renewable hemp has exceptional material properties that make for a very strong fibre. Historically hemp has been used in the manufacture of rope, which illustrates the material’s great strength. Hemp fibres have also been used in the manufacture of the lightweight Lotus-designed seats.
An additional benefit of using hemp is that it is a natural resource that requires relatively low energy to manufacture and absorbs CO2 while growing as a plant through natural photosynthesis.
The seats are upholstered in a durable yet, biodegradable woollen fabric that has been given the EU Flower certificate to exemplify its environmental credentials. The material doesn’t use any dyes. Its colour is created from the selection of sheep breeds used to produce the wool for the yarn, which increases the natural feel of the wool and reduces the processing of the cloth.
Sisal, a tough abrasion-resistant material, is used for the carpets in the Eco Elise.
The Lotus Paint Facility, working with Du Pont, has developed a totally water-based paint system. This paint solution includes primer, colour coat and lacquer. Lotus says that by using this water-based technology, it can achieve impressive savings in energy consumption because of the low cure temperature the paint requires. An additional benefit is the reduction in solvents emissions.
The Eco Elise weighs 32kg less than the standard Elise S, giving it greater fuel economy and better performance. Lotus has extended the weight reduction philosophy to the audio system with an exceptionally lightweight stereo and speaker system from Alpine, saving 1.5kg. The system uses MP3/iPod technology in a sleek modern design.
Special lightweight wheels reduce the unsprung mass and save about 15.8kg over the already super- light Elise wheels.
Lotus has evaluated the energy expended to make the car, working to the 3Rs – reduce, re-use and recycle.
Changes to the way it operates have seen Lotus cut electricity use by 14 percent, gas by 30 percent and water by 11 percent at its headquarters at Hethel, England. The reductions have coincided with improvements in recycling, with 57 percent of waste product now being recycled.
The green materials used in the Eco Elise have been studied carefully to ensure that each technology used reduces the car’s environmental impact. The life of the components has been analysed – during the production stage, in-use and at the end of the vehicle’s life.
The technology used aims to offer lower emissions of both solvents and CO2 in the lifecycle of the vehicle, with reductions in energy consumed during manufacture.
The hemp fibres have been farmed in East Anglia, reducing the carbon miles incurred in the production of this Elise.
Lotus Manufacturing has component-making facilities and a paint facility at its headquarters in Hethel, Norfolk, with another manufacturing site a short distance away in Norwich.
Lotus boss, Mike Kimberley, says the Eco Elise demonstrates “the advanced and affordable green technologies Lotus is developing.
“We’re at the cutting edge of environmental technology and are determined to push forward with our green agenda.
“The Lotus brand values of light weight, fuel efficiency, and high performance are more relevant today than they ever have been.
“We’re keen to ensure that Lotus as a company and its products offer an ethical, green option that appeals to our customers.”