Lotus Is Working on a New Carbon-Fiber Sports Car

The brand obsessed with building lightweight cars is moving from aluminum to carbon-fiber.

KOSTAS SIDIRAS

Under the leadership of Jean-Marc Gales, Lotus has embraced carbon fiber in its quest to continually make its cars lighter. Speaking to British magazine Car, Gales says Lotus is doubling down on carbon, confirming that the automaker will release its first-ever carbon-tub sports car in 2020.

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This carbon-tub car is set to be a replacement of sorts for the ultra-hardcore 3-Eleven, which was the quickest Lotus ever built until the crazy Exige Cup 430 arrived last year. The new car will not be an all-out track weapon like the 3-Eleven, though.

"It will be something similar, but much more civilized, because 3-Eleven is pretty raw," Gales told Car. And don't think of it as a modern-day Esprit; Gales told Car, "I might need a bit more time for that."

The carbon-tubbed Lotus will likely be a limited-production model, but don't worry: The company also plans to release a second, more-affordable sports car in 2020. That car will use a bonded-aluminum chassis just like all of Lotus' current production models.

"[Our aluminum chassis] is still a benchmark for lightweight, crash resistance and longevity," Gales told Car.

This sports car would replace an existing Lotus product, though Gales didn't specify which. Lotus was bought by Geely, the Chinese automaker that owns Volvo, last year, and that changed Gales' initial plan to create a third-generation Elise for 2020. He's also thinking that a stripped-back sports car like an Elise might be a difficult proposition in today's automobile market.

"Sport-car sales volumes are notoriously low, investment is notoriously high so you need to do your investment well," Gales said. "So it's not an easy task, but the juicy markets seem to be a bit more upmarket."

But don't take Gales' upmarket ambitions to mean that the Elise will die. He says it could feasibly live on in the same way that Caterham has continued production of the original Lotus 7.

Gales also told Car that these two new Lotus models would use lots of components from Geely and Volvo. He didn't specify whether that would include use of Volvo drivetrains, though he did say Lotus would not use Volvo's "twin-engine" hybrid system, citing its weight.

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And yes, an SUV is coming, likely in 2020 or 2021. But naturally, we're more excited about the two sports cars. Lotus has been on a tear lately with cars like the Evora Sport 430 and Exige Cup 430, and it sounds like more good things are coming soon.

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