The future of electric hypercars may not quite exist yet, but Lotus is certainly doing its part to invent it with the new Evija. While several manufacturers have promised to play in this exotic realm, the British sports-car maker looks set to be the first when the Evija goes on sale this summer. To get an idea of what customers can expect from the full production model, we secured a track drive in a prototype version at Lotus's Hethel headquarters in England.
While deeply impressive, the Evija prototype's numbers are not quite what Lotus promises for the finished car. Combined output across the prototype's four electric motors (one at each wheel) is limited to just over 1600 horsepower—a mighty figure but still significantly less than the production version's nearly 2000 horses. The development car also was, unsportingly, fitted with 140-mph speed limiter, whereas customer cars will be able to exceed 200 mph. It also, for our drive, did without active aerodynamics, adaptive dampers, regenerative braking, torque vectoring across its axles, and the ability to vary its front-to-rear torque split beyond an arbitrary 23/77 percent. This is in keeping with the company's engineering ethos to first perfect the core chassis before adding support systems. Of greater concern on the day of our drive was the lack of any kind of stability or traction control, which we thought may come in handy given the car's track-biased Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tires and temperatures in the low 40s at the company's the Hethel circuit.
Fortunately, the Evija's lack of electronic safeguards was not an issue as the tires came up to temperature and began to deliver huge amounts of grip. Along with being Lotus's first EV, the Evija also is the brand's first all-wheel-drive road car. Yet despite both of those novelties, its core dynamic experience is remarkably close to that of the company's existing sports cars. Just much, much quicker.
The Evija's steering is reassuringly Lotus-like, with a slightly slower ratio than the supercar norm but with linear responses and rich off-center feedback. To maintain better feel, Lotus has surprisingly kept with hydraulic assistance in place of an electric rack that's the norm today, even though this brings the complication of integrating a separate electrically driven hydraulic pump. For similar reasons the Evija employs a conventional brake booster instead of one of the increasingly fashionable electric-assist systems.
The car has a relatively tall battery pack situated behind its passenger compartment, rather than a shorter pack spanning the length of the vehicle. Lotus says the 70.0-kWh lithium-ion pack weighs a substantial 1583 pounds—in contrast, the car's naked carbon-fiber tub weighs only 284 pounds—but its position gives the Evija a weight distribution and center of gravity similar to that of an internal-combustion mid-engined supercar. Indeed, on track the Evija does drive much like a large and very powerful Evora, rotating keenly and responding well to small driver inputs. It feels wieldy and approachable, never skittish. The suspension has good initial compliance, with heavy cornering loads inducing a small amount of body roll providing feedback to the driver.
Formula 1 cars aside, no Lotus has ever accelerated so quickly. The Evija's straight-line performance is outside normal frames of reference, both in terms of its instantaneous savagery and the lack of drama that accompanies it. This is, for want of a better term, a quietly startling vehicle to drive. The objective evidence of g-forces and spiraling numbers on the car's digital display is in total contrast to the lack of anything like a recognizable supercar soundtrack, with nothing more than a muscular electrical hum entering the cockpit. We reached the 140-mph speed limiter well before the end of one of Hethel's longer straights, the rapidly approaching braking zones coming as a surprise every time. Lotus figures the production Evija will be able to bolt from rest to 186 mph in an astonishing nine seconds or so. For comparison, the quickest car we've ever tested, the Bugatti Chiron Sport, needed 12.4 seconds to hit 180 mph.
Lotus has yet to say exactly how much downforce the finished Evija's hydraulically operated rear wing and vast diffuser will produce, although it acknowledges the total will be large. The prototype's wing was fixed during our drive, yet the massive lateral loads that the car could generate through Hethel's quicker corners left us with no doubt about the presence of serious aerodynamic assistance. The Evija's pushrod-actuated suspension incorporates Formula 1-inspired front and rear "heave dampers." This setup features a strut that connects the tops of the upper left and right control arms in order to act equally against forces on both wheels while allowing each corner's springs and dampers to remain compliant. Even under substantial downforce loads, the suspension never became harsh nor the steering excessively heavy.
Not that the prototype felt finished in all areas. It was running an early ABS calibration for its hugely powerful Brembo carbon-ceramic brakes, which intervened early and made the car feel surprisingly heavy going into the Hethel's tight hairpins. The brake pedal also became soft after a couple of hot laps, perhaps due to the development car's lack of regenerative braking assistance.
The other issue we experienced is one the Evija can't be fairly blamed for: the limitations of current battery technology. Harder use devours the battery's charge at a prodigious rate. While the finished car should be able to achieve a 250-mile range under Europe's admittedly optimistic WLTP protocol, our experience was that track driving will deplete the pack in less than 15 minutes, although output never seemed to drop as the pack approached empty. The finished Evija will support charging speeds of up to 800 kW, although even today's commercially available 350-kW units should allow for the battery to be replenished in not much more time than it takes to empty it on the track.
Lotus seems to be on course to be among the first to bring an electric hypercar to market. But it may have created a car ahead of its time. Company executives admit it is possible that it may not sell all of the 130 examples that it plans to produce. In addition to a price that works out to around $2.4 million at current exchange rates, the Evija will not be street legal in the United States, which means American buyers will face additional import complications and show-and-display restrictions. Still, Lotus says that hasn't put off some determined and very wealthy early adopters, with several cars already set to come stateside. Their hypercar of the future is nearly here.
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