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Lotus Announces the Eco Elise Sustainable Green Sports Car Prototype
By Jesse Sears
British lightweight sports car manufacturer has just announced the Lotus Eco Elise sustainable sports car project, now a one-off green technology Elise model but with features that should soon find their way into the Lotus lineup. The Lotus Eco Elise extends the idea of environmentally friendly sports cars past the idea of low emissions, taking a look at the materials used and the environmental footprint of the manufacturing process.
Lotus sports cars, and the Lotus Elise have always been known for their lightweight, eeking every ounce of performance out of engine specs that look like nothing special on paper. The Lotus Eco Elise takes this concept even further, knocking off an additional 70.5 pounds from the featherweight Elise and using roof-mounted solar panels to power the electrical systems whenever possible, taking further load off of the Eco Elise's four cylinder motor.
When Lotus speaks of a holistic perspective in the creation of an eco friendly sports car, the materials from which the car is made are key to this process. It has been said that the environmental cost of the materials and the waste produced in the manufacture of a Toyota Prius is more than the ecological costs of keeping your old car on the road for several more years. Lotus seeks to address this conundrum with the Lotus Eco Elise, using a strong composite material made chiefly from sustainable hemp in the manufacture of the body panels and spoiler on the new Eco Elise. The seats use this material, as well as "sustainable" wool, rather than leather or synthetic material.
Even the carpets are made from sustainable plant material, sisal, which Lotus notes in the Eco Elise for its durable properties. A new instrument cluster in the Lotus Eco Elise reminds the driver when to shift at ideal points for greatest fuel efficiency during normal driving situations. The Eco Elise promises equal or better performance to the standard Lotus Elise S, in a green sports car package that is much more fully realized that simply reducing carbon emissions from the tailpipe.
Though it sounds a little far fetched that the Lotus Eco Elise would be given the green light for production, let's hope Lotus comes through with the promise to employ some of these green sports car technologies throughout their model range, and soon.
Lotus Eco Elise: Trackday Warrior Turns Eco Warrior
[Courtesy Lotus Press Release]
Lotus unveils the Eco Elise technology demonstrator at the British Motor Show,
capitalising on great strides forward in green technology.
The Eco Elise project promotes a different perspective on “green”, one which does not
revolve solely around tailpipe CO2. This holistic approach is in keeping with the progressive
Lotus culture, driving Lotus to become the world’s green automotive consultancy.
Sustainable materials, hemp, eco wool and sisal have been developed for body panels and
trim and, combined with hi-tech water based paint solutions, showcase new affordable green
technologies. The green credentials of the technology on show in the Eco Elise have been
analysed throughout the lifecycle of the car.
A green gear change display has been integrated into the dashboard to promote greener
driving as well as a weight reduction programme, illustrating the holistic approach taken. The
energy expended to manufacture the car has been evaluated, working to the 3R’s -Reduce,
Re-use and Recycle.
Mike Kimberley, CEO of Group Lotus plc commented "This Eco Elise is a great example of
the advanced and affordable green technologies Lotus is developing. We are at the cutting
edge of environmental technology and are determined to push forward with our green
agenda. The Lotus brand values of lightweight, fuel efficient, and high performance are more
relevant today than they ever have been. We are keen to ensure that Lotus as a company
and its products offer an ethical, green option that appeals to our customers".
In keeping with the “performance through light weight” philosophy, the Eco Elise weighs 32
kg (70.5 lbs) less than the standard Elise S, which means that the efficient Elise S engine in
the Eco Elise will give higher fuel economy figures and even better performance.
Dramatic improvements to the culture and operations at Lotus has rewarded the company
with staggering reductions in energy (Electricity 14%, Gas 30%) and water (11%) consumed
across the Hethel headquarters in 2007, compared to 2006. These advances have coincided
with improvements in recycling, with 57% of waste product now being recycled.
The new green materials sourced for this car have been carefully studied to ensure that each
technology used reduces the environmental impact of the vehicle. The life of the components
has been analysed; during the production stage, in-use and at the end of the vehicle’s life.
The technology used aims to offer lower emissions of both solvents and CO2 in the lifecycle
of the vehicle, with reductions in energy consumed during manufacture.
The Eco Elise will be displayed in the Greener Driving Pavilion at the British International
Motor Show from 23rd July until 3rd August. The project displays affordable green technology
that is intended to be feasible and production viable in the near term future.
The Lotus Eco Elise in more detail
The project focuses on developments in:
Cleaner manufacturing processes
Renewable energy generation
Reducing carbon miles
Efficient driving techniques
The renewable materials have been incorporated into the project, with hemp, eco wool and
sisal providing natural, biodegradable engineering materials. Cleaner manufacturing
processes have been sought, utilising the latest water based paint technology. Using this paint system saves energy and reduces emissions of solvents from the paint shop. Solar
panels have been set into the hemp hard top to help power the electrical systems and give a
means of renewable energy generation.
With the use of locally farmed hemp, the carbon miles to produce the Eco Elise are reduced,
in keeping with the holistic approach to this vehicle. The Eco Elise puts an emphasis on
efficient driving techniques by using an “economy” gear change display to improve fuel
efficiency and promote greener driving. The car has undergone a weight reduction
programme to add a little extra lightness, assisting in more economical, greener driving.
Sustainable hemp technical fabrics have been used as the primary constituent in the high
quality “A” class composite body panels and spoiler. The renewable hemp has exceptional
material properties that make for a very strong fibre. Historically hemp has been used in the
manufacture of rope, illustrating the great strength of the material.
The hemp fibres have also been used in the manufacture of the lightweight Lotus designed
seats. An additional benefit of using hemp is that it is a natural resource that requires
relatively low energy to manufacture and absorbs CO2 whilst growing as a plant through
natural photosynthesis. This hemp material is used with a polyester resin to form a hybrid
composite, however it is hoped that a fully recyclable composite resin will be viable in the
The Eco Elise seats are upholstered in a durable yet, biodegradable woollen fabric that has
been given the EU Flower certificate to exemplify its environmental credentials. This new
material is ethically produced and does not use any dyes or harmful processing. In fact the
colour is created from the selection of sheep breeds used to produce the wool for the yarn,
which increases the natural feel of the wool and reduces the processing of the cloth.
Sisal is a renewable crop that, like hemp, is used for its strong material properties. Sisal has been used for the carpets in the Eco Elise, as it is a tough, abrasion resistant material. The
use of these materials illustrates the capability at Lotus of utilising new, advanced materials
and the flexibility of the manufacturing facilities.
Cleaner manufacturing processes
Whilst improving the green credentials of the Lotus production facilities, the Lotus Paint
Facility, in partnership with Du Pont has developed a totally water-based paint system. This
paint solution includes primer, colour coat and lacquer, and it is the first time that it has been
possible to hand spray a water based “A” class production paint finish.
In using this progressive water based technology, Lotus is able to achieve impressive
savings in energy consumption due to the low cure temperature this paint requires. An
additional benefit of this paint system is the reduction in emissions of solvents, all of which
contribute to substantial cost savings for Lotus. This is a result of the unique collaboration
with Du Pont in pushing forward low-volume paint spraying technology. This technology is
anticipated to be available in production cars in the near future.
Renewable energy generation
The hemp hard top on the Eco Elise has two flexible solar panels neatly embedded in the
roof, contributing power to the electrical systems and saving energy that would be drained
from the engine.
The solar panels have been integrated into the hard top to illustrate the feasibility of applying
this technology. This application shows the installation of solar panels into a composite “A”
class panel with a double curvature. Using this technology on a greater number of panels
would make it possible to provide more power, especially on a larger vehicle.
Reduction in carbon miles
The hemp fibres have been farmed in East Anglia, thus reducing the carbon miles incurred in the production of this Elise. Lotus Manufacturing has component manufacturing facilities and
a paint facility at its headquarters in Hethel, Norfolk, with another manufacturing site a short
distance away in Norwich. The company operates a carefully managed logistics system
operating between sites to improve efficiency, reduce costs and carbon miles. This is a
Kanban driven barcode system that has been adopted by key suppliers. The process also
uses packaging that is recycled many times over to eliminate waste.
Efficient driving techniques
Lotus cars have red shift lights to help drivers extract the maximum performance from the
engine. However for the Eco Elise, Lotus designed software has been developed to assist
drivers in maximising the fuel efficiency of the engine. A green gear shift display has been
integrated into the instrument panel to ensure that gears are changed at the optimum point to
reduce emissions and save fuel.
"Performance through light weight" is so synonymous with Lotus. The reduction in mass
improves the handling and braking performance and also reduces the effort required to
accelerate the car. The weight reduction philosophy has even extended to the audio system
with an exceptionally lightweight stereo and speaker system from Alpine saving 1.5 kg (3.3
lbs). The system uses MP3/ iPod technology in a sleek modern design.
The Eco Elise uses special lightweight wheels that reduce the unsprung mass and contribute
a weight saving of approximately 15.8 kg (34.8 lbs) over the already super light Elise wheels.
The weight saving programme for the Eco Elise has resulted in a total saving of around 32 kg (70.5 lbs) over the feather light Elise S, which reduces the fuel required to drive the car.
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