Lotus Evora 414E Hybrid review (prototype) MSN Cars UK

28 Апр 2014 | Author: | Комментарии к записи Lotus Evora 414E Hybrid review (prototype) MSN Cars UK отключены
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Lotus Evora 414E Hybrid review (prototype)

Driven

What — Lotus Evora 414E Hybrid

Date — October 2012

Where — Hethel, UK

Price — £1 million plus

Available — Never, in this form

Experimental range-extender hybrid Lotus sports car showcases British engineering talent. But it’s a long way off any production reality.

We like — High technology, seamless thrust

We don’t like — Scary cost, limited performance after battery depleted

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First Impressions

This is an odd one. The Evora 414E is a long way from being a production reality. But certain aspects are so leading edge that they will make their way through, though it may be years yet before you get them on your road-going Lotus.

The UK government’s Technology Strategy Board Award has put up £19 million to help the UK motor industry push ahead with the development of advanced electric vehicles. Lotus, Nissan, Jaguar Land Rover, Xtrac and Evo Electric have bought into this and match the government funds with their own.

So there is a scurry of activity at the moment. Jaguar has its electric XJ, Nissan and Infiniti have their own projects, and Lotus has the Evora 414E. Lotus Engineering, a separate company from the sports car manufacturer, has plenty of the right credentials.

Many leading car manufacturers use its expertise — it built the electric Rolls-Royce, for example.

the 414E’s weight has risen by 377kg. The batteries are a major issue

What we have here is a range extender vehicle. Which means it always runs on battery power, and when the battery runs down, a petrol engine starts up to power a generator to provide more electricity for the battery and/or the motors. The car is never powered by the petrol engine directly.

And this is one very clever engine, the first in the world to be developed specifically as a range extender. The Vauxhall Ampera, in contrast, uses a straightforward Corsa supermini engine. The Lotus unit is 1.2 litres with three cylinders, very small and very light.

Not that this Evora is lightweight. Even the base V6 Evora is a bloated 1,382kg. Despite ditching that huge Toyota V6 engine and transmission, the 414E’s weight has risen by 377kg.

The batteries are a major issue.

Lotus

Lotus Electric Cars

The 414hp output is impressive enough but the 738 lb ft (or 1,000Nm) of torque is twice what a BMW M5 used to produce not so long ago. And with a fully charged battery, the Evora 414E simply pounds down the test track. No hesitation, no gear changing, just a relentless surge forward with a sensation like no ordinary car you’ve ever driven.

There are paddles on the steering wheel that, at the moment, do nothing. But Lotus has plans to increase driver involvement in the future with a momentary torque interrupt as the pedal is squeezed to mimic the gearchange on a regular car. On paddle downshifts, engine braking from the motors can be stepped up too.

Electric cars are usually very quiet, but the Evora isn’t for very long. The petrol engine just over your shoulder (there is no rear seat any more because the rear is filled with batteries) kicks in to provide a bit of generative boost to help extend the range of the battery. Soundproofing isn’t something Lotus has had time to manage, as yet.

And there is another issue. When the battery is exhausted, you are left with that small petrol engine to generate the power for the motors. Even with rose-tinted specs, performance is going to be pedestrian.

Ride and handling

A 27% weight increase isn’t likely to do any favours to the handling of any car, but Lotus has managed to keep the distribution within the chassis pretty much as it was before.

There is no doubt it feels less responsive at the wheel and slower to turn into corners, but the basic Evora package is such a great one that the Lotus remains up there with the best. Even the drastically re-engineered steering retains its feel and precision.

The ride is one area we can’t comment on. On the billiard smooth Hethel test track it was terrific. But we’d expect that in almost any car.

Lotus

Today’s electrically powered cars are so far removed from the old milk floats there is almost no relationship whatsoever. A milk float used lots of regular lead-acid car batteries and huge DC electric motors. The Evora — and others — are sophisticated beyond recognition.

The Evora’s two motors, one on each rear wheel, are three-phase AC devices, which means a bulky inverter for each and 400 volts running through bright orange cables. The lithium-iron-phosphate battery pack alone weighs 250kg.

Inside, the Evora 414E is the same as a regular Evora, with superb bucket seats and a genuine sports car ambience. Only the central display is obviously different, given over to information on the state of the battery charge.

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