Lotus Elise aluminum chassis

Since the earliest days of Lotus, founder Colin Chapman lived by the philosophy of "Simplicate and add lightness." Over the last 60 years, that has manifested in cars from the Seven and Elan to the Elise and Evora. We can look for more of the same from the company, now that the California Air Resources Board has awarded Lotus Engineering a $2 million grant to conduct a study into future lightweight vehicles.

The new study is a follow-up to an earlier program that saw Lotus build a prototype vehicle capable of being built in volumes of 50,000 units a year. The mass of this earlier vehicle was slashed by 38 percent while the cost was only increased by 3 percent. More importantly, fuel consumption of the lightweight vehicle would be reduced by 23 percent. Unlike many lightweight concepts constructed from carbon fiber, the Lotus-designed vehicle was built mainly from more conventional materials like aluminum, magnesium and high-strength steels.

The goal of the new program, due to be completed by April 2011 and led by the Lotus Engineering office in Ann Arbor, MI, will be to demonstrate that the lightweight vehicle can meet all U.S. crash standards. If anyone can do it, we think Lotus has a shot.

[Source: Lotus]
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State Recognises Lotus as Expert in Lightweight Vehicles

The State of California awards $2 million research programme to Lotus Engineering for a study into efficient, lightweight cars of the future.

Lotus Engineering is delighted to announce that it has been commissioned by the Air Resources Board of California to undertake the second stage of a study investigating efficient, lightweight vehicles manufactured using lighter, stronger materials.

Lotus Engineering will conduct a detailed structural design and analysis of the prototype vehicle from an earlier study to demonstrate it meets the crashworthiness and stringent safety requirements for vehicles sold in the United States.

In April this year, Lotus Engineering concluded the first part of the study, released by the International Council on Clean Transportation in California, which recognised that a reduction in vehicle mass of 38% can be achieved for medium volume vehicles (around 50,000 units a year) with just an increase in 3% in vehicle cost and giving a 23% reduction in fuel consumption.

It is widely recognised in the automotive industry that a reduction in vehicle mass gives more efficient vehicles; with the global drive to reduce emissions, manufacturers are working hard to take mass out their cars. Lightweight vehicles have additional benefits in terms of performance, agility and cornering, (the lighter the car, the less power it needs to propel it along the road for the same performance as a heavier car).

For 62 years, Lotus has been leading the car world with 'performance through light weight' engineering. The strict adherence to this philosophy enabled Lotus to develop some of the finest sportscars of all time such as the Lotus Elite, Elan, Esprit from Lotus' peerless past and the Elise, Exige and Evora from the current line up – all of which are the lightest cars in their class. But it is not just sportscars; Lotus' consultancy division, Lotus Engineering has been applying its light weight principles behind the scenes for other car makers for years on many types of vehicles, both low volume and mass production.

This study will be led by Lotus Engineering's Michigan, USA office with completion in April 2011. The vehicle design will use a mixture of materials best suited to its application including aluminium, magnesium, composites, high strength lightweight steel and plastics.