While strolling around one of the smaller exhibit halls at the Los Angeles Auto Show I ran into an old acquaintance I hadn't seen in about 15 years. I met Roger Becker early in my engineering career when I was working on the ABS system for the ill-fated Lotus Elan. Roger is the director of vehicle enigneering at Lotus and over his 42-year career he has had a hand in developing far more cars from different manufacturers than we will likely ever know about. While Lotus was here to give the US its first look at the new Evora sports car, they have had a hand in a variety of much greener projects in recent years, including the Tesla Roadster and, more recently, the Dodge EV. You may recall that the Dodge was announced a couple of months ago along with ER-EV versions of the Town and Country van and Jeep Wrangler. Since Chrysler had only a bare-bones presence here at LA, I asked Roger to answer a few questions about the Dodge; read all about it after the jump.
[Source: Lotus]Photos Copyright ©2008 Sam Abuelsamid / Weblogs, Inc.
In spite of the badges the electric Dodge is easily recognizable to Lotus fans as the Europa coupe. It should come as no surprise to anyone that Chrysler actually contracted with Lotus to assemble the car for them in England. The battery pack uses lithium polymer cells rather than the liquid electrolyte lithium ion cells used by most companies. Becker indicated that if the Dodge were to be produced, it may use a different type of cell, although he declined to be specific. The motor is supplied by UQM an American company known as the original supplier for Phoenix Motor Cars.
The real key to making all of these bits work together is the electronics and software and this is the heart of Lotus' involvement in the project. Roger explained that Lotus engineers have been working for over ten years on a control strategies for electric drive vehicles. The control software is by far the most important part of the system and is critical to optimizing the efficiency and performance. The control system has to be aware of environmental conditions, battery condition and the drivers performance demands and then has to provide the best balance of those to maximize the range.
As Becker explained anyone can put the mechanical bits together but it won't necessarily make for a satisfying driving or ownership experience unless it's well managed. This control system is what Lotus would really like to sell to other manufacturers including Chrysler. Lotus and Chrysler are discussing a deal to build the Dodge EV which Chrysler executives have said they would like to have on the road within two years.
Whether such a deal ever comes to fruition may be largely dependent on what happens in the next few weeks in Congress and whether Chrysler even continues to be a going concern. If anyone can make such a project happen in that time frame it is Lotus since the Europa is already in production and the company has been working on the propulsion system for some time.