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First drive: Lotus Evora 414E
Excellent - is this a new Lotus?
Sort of. But I’m afraid you won’t be able to buy one. The 414E is a Lotus Engineering project, and the Engineering boys form a separate company to Lotus Cars. As such, this 414E is a glorified billboard for LE, designed to show off just what they think is possible with a range extender.
Range extender - isn’t that what the Vauxhall Ampera is?
Yes. But in the Evora you’ve got a 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine (Lotus’ own unit, by the way) which powers a set of batteries, which in turn power two electric motors developing 402bhp and 737lb ft. In other words, it’s not short on oomph. 0-60mph takes 4.4 seconds, and the top speed is 133mph. All for a return of about 41mpg and 55g/km of CO2.
But because that petrol engine isn’t in any way connected to the wheels, Lotus can fix the speed it runs at (3,500rpm) for the most efficient fuel figures. What this means in reality is that when you accelerate, the engine note doesn’t change, which feels a bit odd at first because your brain is hardwired into expecting an alteration.
Has any of this made it handle differently?
I’m afraid so. Despite Lotus’ mastery in making cars ride and handle sweetly, it has struggled to overcome the extra 377kg of electrical gubbins that this Evora is carrying around. It definitely feels heavier, but don’t panic too much - the 414E is still a fun car to drive. And the Lotus poise is still there.
Plus, Lotus is working on giving the car an interesting - and fake - ‘exhaust’ note, and looking into the possibility of fitting flappy paddles, to give an illusion of changing gear (even though you’re only driving an electric motor, which has just the one ratio).
In other words, this could be the first electric car to have character.
But what does this all mean to me?
Glad you asked. It means you should be proud, because Lotus is still churning out impressive engineering projects and solving industry dilemmas. You can also be proud because this is a UK project - the funding has come from a £19 million pot that’s been set up by the British Government, Jaguar Land Rover, Nissan, Lotus and various suppliers.
And because Nissan is involved, you’ll be driving this tech sooner than you might think. The Emerg-e concept uses all this clever engineering, and that car will be on sale in production form possibly as soon as 2015.