Future of lightweighting? Look to Lotus

The Lotus Evora Sport 410 features a carbon fibre tailgate, among other weight saving strategies.
By Mike Davey
Hamilton, Ontario — May 4, 2016 — You probably won’t see too many roll into the shop, but it’s worth noting that Lotus has managed to shave another 207 kilograms from its cars. The company’s heaviest model weighs in at just 1,395 kilograms. 
The company doesn’t produce what most people would think of as daily drivers. Even its low-end models fall more into the “super-car” range. However, it’s always worth looking at what technological leaders are doing. Today’s cutting edge technology often becomes commonplace down the road. 
Lotus cars are developed through the company’s Lightweight Laboratory concept. According to an official statement, this philosophy has grown to provide a framework for evaluating every component. Viewing components in isolation, as well as part of a sub-assembly and even the car as a whole, it allows each to be assessed, optimised and re-engineered. A statement from Lotus says this approach means that each car represents the epitome of the company’s “light is right” approach.
Jean-Marc Gales is the CEO of Group Lotus. He sees the company’s approach to engineering as its biggest strength. 
“We’re not concerned with following other car manufacturers. Innovation comes from taking a new approach, and we don’t stop looking. Colin Chapman (the founder of Lotus) famously said, ‘Adding power makes you faster on the straights, subtracting weight makes you faster everywhere,’ and that thinking has become part of our DNA.”
Given that it’s Lotus, we were almost expecting a carbon fibre chassis. Not so, says Lotus. Instead the company has stuck with aluminum. Able to employ lightweight extrusions, joined by epoxy adhesive, it’s immensely strong and torsionally stiff, yet the chassis for the Elise and the Exige tips the scales at just 68 kilograms.
A statement from Lotus notes that this is roughly half the weight of an equivalent steel chassis. It’s also substantially simpler to produce than a similar weight carbon fibre alternative and easier to adapt to the requirements of specific models.
This is not to say the company has turned away from carbon fibre. Far from it. For example, the Lotus Evora Sport 410 cuts 70 kilograms from the Evora 400. The weight loss draws heavily on Lotus’s experience with carbon fibre.
This includes a one-piece carbon tailgate. The Evora 400’s tailgate consisted of five separate components.  
Looking to the other new vehicles in the Lotus line-up, the Lotus Exige Sport 350 weighs just 1,125 kilograms. Optional carbon composite components shed a further 30 kilograms, allowing the new roadster version of the Exige Sport 350 to weigh just 1,085 kilograms, a reduction of 91 kilograms compared to the previous Exige S.
The latest versions of the legendary Lotus Elise, the Sport and Sport 220 have also become lighter. Both have both seen a weight reduction of 15 kilograms. The new Lotus Elise Cup 250 has shed 31 kilograms (with lightweight options) compared to the previous Elise Cup 220. A carbon pack (carbon rear, wing, front splitter, rear diffuser and floor extenders of components) reduces the weight of the car by a further 10 kilograms. 
For more information on Lotus’ advancements in lightweighting, please visit lotuscars.com
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