How Norfolk built a hypercar that does zero to 60mph in less than two seconds
PUBLISHED: 09:30 04 September 2019 | UPDATED: 09:22 05 September 2019
A new multi-million pound supercar is set to take the market by storm, leaving the metrics of competitors in its dust. It's Lotus' brand new Evija, and it's going to be made right here in the East.
The world's fastest street-legal car currently clocks a time of zero to 62 mph in less than two seconds.
Italy's Pinifarnia Battista was launched in March, and can get to 186mph in less than 12 seconds.
But Lotus's new Evija can get to 180pmh in less than nine.
The entirely electric vehicle was launched this summer with the production model currently touring the world.
But at home in its headquarters at Hethel, Norfolk, preparations are under way to make just 130 of these £1.75m cars.
"We've been working on the programme for the Evija for around 21 months," said Lotus's executive director of sports car engineering, Matt Windle. "There were discussions going on when the Geely takeover was beginning to fall into place, and as soon as that was confirmed they gave us the go ahead to start the program."
In its plan for the next 10 years Lotus has set aside an eight-figure sum for investments such as new products and production lines.
On top of this it is also expanding its offering as a tourist destination with the opening of a new museum, restaurant and customer experience centre.
The sports car manufacturer, which was founded in 1952, was bought out by the Chinese automotive company in September 2017.
Mr Windle continued: "We needed an owner that gave us the opportunity to invest in the product lines we wanted to add. We had product plans sat on the shelf for a while but when Geely came on board we were able to look at it in a completely different way."
The limited number of Evijas will be produced at a state-of-the-art factory which is currently being fitted out.
Shortly after plans for the Evija were tabled, management began looking at how they could actually build the hypercar.
"We decided very early on that we would have build engineers sat alongside engineers and designers," said executive director of operations David Hewitt.
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"You can design and engineer the most beautiful car in the world but if you can't screw it together it becomes meaningless.
"Ordinarily build engineers wouldn't be involved in design and engineering until the physical car starts to be built. But they were involved all the way through from the early stages to virtual builds," Mr Hewitt continued.
"This was hugely helpful because they were able to identify potential issues if things may not fit well together, or a sequence of assembly wasn't right."
The Evija model will be built in a similar manufacturing sequence as Lotus's other three products, the Elise, Exige and the Evora.
The sequence will see the car move through 12 stages with around 10 people working on it at any one time.
"It's not the first EV we've built on site but this is a step change in terms of technology," said Mr Hewitt. "When hiring and recruiting we needed to make sure that staff were safe as they were working with high-voltage systems.
"We're also working with a lower volume and higher level of hand assembly so we need to make sure that the staff working on the Evija have the required level of craftsmanship to do that."
He added: "Doubtless some of the things we'll see on Evija we'll see on future products so its important to familiarise ourselves with the technology in this vehicle in a smaller volume so that when we go to a higher volume we have the knowledge to do that."
The new direction of design and engineering achieved in the Evija will be used in other products going forward.
Most notably, the Evija features two vents running the length of its body to allow for optimum airflow through the vehicle.
"The Evija looks at porosity," explains Miguel Fragoso, vice president of Lotus engineering consultancy.
"The example we use is a desert and there are areas where the wind has blown holes in the rock. That's the model we've used to look at how air can travel through the car and reduce drag and turbulence."
Such reductions in air friction were key in achieving the car's top speed of 200mph.
"The beauty of electrification is that you have all of the torque available immediately," explained Mr Windle. "The performance of this vehicle is class leading and I think the industry has been taken aback a little by what we have managed to achieve here in Norfolk."
"The Evija is the halo product that will define elements of the product plan going forward," said Mr Windle.
"It also shouldn't be overlooked that Lotus is loved as a brand. The rich history we've got and it's one of those companies that people just want to succeed.
"We want to highlight that we have a strong history of innovation and ingenuity, but we still have the people that can bring technology to the market."