LONDON -- Lotus Cars will only produce electric cars by the “late 2020s,” Managing Director Matt Windle said, and appears ready to join the industry migration to utility vehicles.
The U.K. sports-car maker, owned by China’s Geely, is the latest automaker to commit to an all-electric future as the industry shifts from combustion engines amid tightening emissions regulations in major markets such as Europe and the U.S.
Lotus is building a new plant in Wuhan, China, where it will make “lifestyle vehicles,” Managing Director Matt Windle said. The factory will have annual capacity in excess of 10,000 vehicles, and Lotus will continue to build sports cars in Hethel, England, where it expects to triple output over time from the 1,600 cars it aims to sell this year.
“We’re always pushing for lightweight, we’re always pushing for the best dynamics, we’re always pushing for the best aerodynamic mix,” Windle said. “But now what we need to do is add technology to that and offer wider range and better-quality products to our customers.”
Lotus’s all-electric strategy was finalized in 2018 after positive customer feedback, Windle said. “We took the decision to go straight to EVs after the Emira, which was already in development,” he said.
Lotus will unveil the combustion-engine Emira on July 6 ahead of a sales launch next year.
Legislation, customer demand and environmental impact were factors in the strategy shift, he said.
Lotus’s first full-electric sports car will be the Evija, a 1.7 million-pound ($2.4 million) hypercar that will be the brand’s halo model. Deliveries start in the first quarter of next year.
Lotus’s second full-electric model is likely to be an SUV-styled car. The company has not disclosed what body type it will be, but the focus on lifestyle vehicles, as well as shifting consumer tastes, strongly suggest some form of utility vehicle.
Windle said the vehicle will use a new premium platform called Evolution that Lotus is developing in-house. The EV will arrive “within two years,” he told Automotive News Europe.
Windle said products off the Evolution non-sports car platform would be “somewhat different” from Tesla’s cars. He referenced Porsche as a competitor.
The model derived from the Evolution platform will have Lotus' sporty DNA even though it will compete in a new segment for the brand, Windle said. "It will be one of the best cars to drive in the segment and it will be one of the lightest cars to drive in its segment,” he said.
The platform will be offered to other Geely group brands and also to outside customers through the Lotus Engineering, consultancy arm, Windle said. He gave no details of possible use with Geely’s brands. Geely owns Volvo, Zhejiang Geely Holding Group’s other brands include Volvo, Lynk & CO, Proton and British taxi maker LEVC.
Geely is developing its own electric platform called SEA for Sustainable Experience Architecture that it will offer to other companies. Geely’s upstart Zeekr brand will use the new architecture.