First Drives

24 December 2012

Lotus Evora 414E driven

A shame you can’t buy it, but if this is what range-extenders might be like one day, bring on the future

Piers Ward
Car image



Don't get your hopes up - this isn't a new Lotus that you can wander into a Lotus dealer and buy. Instead, the 414E range-extender is a glorified billboard for Lotus Engineering, with the sole purpose of showing off just how brilliant it is at developing new technologies. Mind you, some of this tech isn't too far removed from stuff we've already seen on forecourts.

The 414E has a small 1.2-litre petrol engine powering a set of batteries, which in turn feed into twin electric motors located either side of the gearbox. These motors effectively act like an ‘e-diff', so Lotus can control the torque going to each rear wheel. The petrol engine, which is Lotus's own design, isn't connected to the wheels in any way, which means it can run at a fixed speed (3,500rpm) for maximum efficiency. But there's the rub: the project might be jointly funded by the British Government, Jaguar, Land Rover, Nissan and various suppliers, and exist to prove that this technology is feasible, but - apart from that bespoke engine and the ‘e-diff' motors - it all feels a bit late to the party. We've already seen this stuff working well in GM's Vauxhall Ampera/Chevy Volt twins, for a start, not to mention cars like the Fisker Karma. And the results are similar, at least in part. Acceleration can feel slightly unnatural, because there's no change in the engine note as the speed continues to rise; the motor simply carries on thrumming away at the same rate - the electric motors are providing all the thrust at the wheels.

There's plenty of it, mind, a single-geared wall of torque. In total, the Evora has 402bhp and a massive 1000Nm, so 0-100kph takes only 4.4 seconds and the maximum speed is 214kph. Which is definitely more Fisker than Vauxhall.

Impressive figures, especially given that it weighs a whopping 377kg more than the standard Evora - getting on for 30 per cent extra mass. Colin Chapman - the maestro of ‘adding lightness' - is probably spinning in his grave, but I hope he'd be impressed with the way the suspension mitigates the worst excesses of all that flab.

Because - and here is the big point for all car fans - it still drives as fluidly as a Lotus should, thanks to the ‘e-diff'. Lotus has demonstrated, albeit in early development form, that a range-extender can be fun. It's working on ‘creating' an engine note for it, and even fitting flappy paddles and a cut in the torque delivery to make it feel like you're changing gear. At long last - an electric car that looks like it might have some character.

The numbers
1200cc, 3cyl, twin electric motors, RWD, 402bhp, 1000Nm, 14.5kpl (est), 55g/km CO2 (est), 0-100kph in 4.4secs, 214kph, 1759kg

The verdict
A shame you can't buy it, but if this is what range-extenders might be like one day, bring on the future

Tags: lotus, evora, 414e, evora 414e

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