To understand why Lotus’s announcement of the new Type 130, a full electric hypercar, is such a big deal, we need to take a skip down the company’s memory lane.
A British racing car brand founded by engineers Colin Chapman and Colin Dare in 1952, Lotus is known for its lightweight and precise handling cars. The company catered to enthusiasts and racers, selling traditionally manufactured cars but also offering kits, so buyers could save the purchase tax and build the car themselves.
When the kit car’s heyday ended by the early 1970’s, Lotus got rid of that financial model and shifted upmarket with the Elite and Eclat, four-seat sedans with luxurious amenities such as air conditioning and even automatic transmissions. In 1976 Lotus scored a success with critics and the public with the now iconic Lotus Esprit, which continued to be manufactured until 2004.
The Rise and Fall
On the racetrack, Lotus was a fierce competitor. Stirling Moss won the brand’s first Grand Prix in 1960 at Monaco and the marque continued to tally up impressive results in Formula 1 through the 1980’s, winning 79 Grand Prix races. But, by 1994, Lotus was no longer competitive and that year marked its last Formula One race.
Though Lotus had to bow out rather unceremoniously, it left an indelible mark on Formula One with its innovations and designs. It popularized the mid-engine layout, developed the first monocoque chassis and integrated the engine and transaxle into the chassis. You can also credit Lotus with being the first to move radiators to the sides of the car to improve aerodynamic performance and inventing active suspension. The company has always lead the industry in new techniques and technologies.
Since the 1980’s Lotus has endured a lot of bumps and bruises what with changing hands several times, suffering the indignity of bankruptcies and the wrangling over the use of its name. In May 2017, Geely, a privately held, Chinese global automotive group, took a 51% controlling stake in Lotus and officially became the owner. And Geely seems to mean business in resurrecting the brand.
The Type 130 marks the first all new product from Lotus in over 10 years, since the 2008 Lotus Evora. And, it will become, if all goes as planned, the first all-electric hypercar from a British manufacturer. As they say, go big or go home.
Lotus didn’t give many details regarding the Type 130, just a teaser image that quite honestly resembles a sonogram. It was constructed using computational fluid dynamic modeling to show air flow patterns over the Type 130’s body. You can make out that there’s a sharp angled hood with a cabin positioned far forward. That’s about it. No hints about what’s under the hood beyond that it’s full electric. Lotus promises a full reveal in London later this year.
CEO Phil Popham said, “Type 130 will be the most dynamically accomplished Lotus in our history. It marks a turning point for our brand and is a showcase of what we are capable of and what is to come from Lotus.”
With Lotus’s lineage and history of innovations in the racing and sports car space, Popham’s statement brings a frisson of excitement that the Type 130 could truly be a tour de force. With its history for not only innovation, but also giant-killing performance, the electric revolution might be just the thing to reinvigorate the classic brand.