Lotus E-R9: Will This Radical Design Study Be A Reality By 2030?
I swear when I first saw the Lotus E-R9, I said yes Carl (Automoblog’s man in Detroit): “Somebody at Lotus played too much Gran Turismo.” I seriously thought Lotus would make one of those all-digital concept cars that you can “drive” in the PlayStation game.
But no, the Lotus E-R9 is serious. Or at least a serious look at what an EV-powered Le Mans racer might be in the near future. According to Lotus, the E-R9 is a design study for an all-electric racing driver who could be on the grid of racetracks worldwide for the 2030 season.
It’s only a matter of time
The world’s automakers believe that electric vehicles will hpen. The available scientific evidence shows that the ICE-powered car has to be phased out and replaced by something. And right now, electric vehicles are our best bet. More than most automakers, Lotus understands that the best way to prove a concept is to drive it, which leads to the E-R9.
Part car, part fighter jet
The fact that it is electron powered is just the beginning of the high-tech wizardry of the E-R9. Get this: According to Richard Hill, chief aerodynamicist at Lotus, the E-R9 is “partly driven like a car and partly flown like a fighter jet”. No, he’s not kidding.
The Active Aero Package includes “transforming” body panels and aerodynamic control surfaces that flex, deflect and twist to support the Lotus E-R9 in all sorts of interesting ways. In addition, the EV powertrain has the same torque vectoring system from the Lotus Evija, but it has been further developed so that it can be customized by the driver on road.
I have to say that the Lotus E-R9 looks amazing and fantastically futuristic with its silky fighter jet body. The E-R9 was developed by Lotus Engineering (not the end of racing or production cars) and was developed as a technological showcase for “its philosophy, cability and innovative spirit in the fields of advanced electrified drives and aerodynamics”.
The emergency room, as you might have guessed, stands for endurance racers. And of course that’s the best crucible for developing innovations on the road (okay, maybe in rallying too). If you can build a car that can literally drive all day in places like Le Mans and Daytona, you can also build a car that drops the kids, pops by the grocery store, and then parks in the office. Part “9”, in case you’re wondering, refers to the Lotus Mark IX that raced at Le Mans in 1955.
Lotus E-R9 aerodynamics
Let’s ignore for now that active (i.e. moving) aero surfaces are banned in racing because this is cool stuff. For starters, there are the “transforming” body panels. Distributed over the delta wing profile, the active surfaces can change their attitude and attitude to the air flow either by pressing a button or automatically according to the sensor inputs. This enables minimal air resistance on the straights and maximum downforce in the corners.
But that’s not all. There are vertical Control surfaces at the rear that generate aerodynamic forces to help the vehicle change direction. Yes, it’s a Pandora’s box, but it would be fun to see what a car could do without aero regulations.
Lotus E-R9 powertrain & range
The advanced electric drivetrain drives each wheel independently and is further enhanced by a torque vectoring system. The torque vectoring system can redirect this power from side to side, corner to corner and front to back to help with things like slowing down, steering and accelerating. According to Lotus, the E-R9’s system is an extension of the Evija electric hypercar, but the E-R9 would be fully adjustable by the driver on the go.
Range, you might be wondering? Yes, when you think about driving a Tesla at Le Mans day and night it gets weird pretty quickly. However, Louis Kerr, Lotus Evija’s main platform engineer, stated, “Battery energy density and power density are changing significantly from year to year. By 2030 we will have mixed cell chemistry batteries that offer the best of both worlds, as well as the ability to hot swap batteries during pit stops. ”
Sounds good. Even if Lotus really only says, “We’ll take care of it later.”
Only time can tell
What Lotus has here is no crazier than flying racing car. In other words, the Lotus E-R9 could work, fancy aero bits and everything.
And it would be fun to see a whole grid of it over the next 10 years, along with contributions from Ferrari and Porsche and Peugeot and the whole gang at Le Mans. Races ultimately improve the breed. And if we want to get electric vehicles to work, the best thing to do is drive them.
Tony Borroz has spent his entire life driving antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in Perback or Kindle format. Follow his work on Twitter: @ TonyBorroz.
Photos & Source: Group Lotus.