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Lotus E-R9: Will this radical design research become a reality by 2030?

nicad 04/04/2022 416

I swear, when I first saw the Lotus E-R9, I said to Carl (of Automoblog in Detroit): "Someone at Lotus played too much Gran Turismo." I really thought that Lotus is making a purely digital concept car that you can "drive" in PlayStation games.

But no, the Lotus E-R9 is serious. Or at least a serious look at what a future electric-powered Le Mans driver could be like. According to Lotus, the E-R9 is a design study for a pure electric racer that could be on the starting grid at racing circuits around the world for the 2030 season.

It's just a matter of time

< p>Part car, part fighter jet

Endurance Racer

Lotus E-R9 Aerodynamics

Lotus E-R9 Powertrain & Range

Only time will tell

It's just a matter of time

Automakers around the world are wondering if electric vehicles are coming. Available science shows that the ICE-powered car will have to be phased out and replaced with, well, 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 race it, which leads to the E-R9.

Part car, part fighter jet

The fact that it's powered by electrons is just the beginning of the high-tech sorcery involved in the E-R9. Get this: According to Lotus chief aerodynamicist Richard Hill, the E-R9 is "part driven like a car and partly flown like a fighter jet." No, he's not kidding.

The active aero package features "morphing" body panels and aerodynamic control surfaces that bend, flex and twist to help the Lotus E-R9 in all sorts of interesting ways. On top of that, the EV powertrain features the same torque-vectoring system of the Lotus Evija, but it's further developed to be adaptable to the driver on the move.

Lotus E-R9 : Cette recherche radicale de design deviendra-t-elle une réalité d'ici 2030 ?

Lotus E-R9. Photo: Lotus Group.

Endurance Racer

I must say that the Lotus E-R9 looks fantastic and fantastically futuristic with its silky fighter jet body. Developed by Lotus Engineering (not the end of a race or production car), the E-R9 was created as a technological showcase of "its philosophy, capabilities and spirit of innovation in the fields of advanced electrified powertrains and aerodynamics."

The ER, as you might have guessed, stands for Endurance Racer. And it is of course the best racing melting pot to develop road innovations (okay, maybe also in rallying). If you're building a car that can literally run all day in places like Le Mans and Daytona, you can also build one that can drop the kids off, pick up groceries, and then park at the office. The "9" part, in case you were wondering, refers to the Lotus Mark IX that raced at Le Mans in 1955.

Lotus E-R9 Aerodynamics

For now, let's ignore that active (i.e. moving) aerodynamic surfaces are prohibited in racing because it's cool. For starters, there are the “morphing” body panels. Located on the profile of the delta wing, the active surfaces can change shape and attitude to the airflow, either at the press of a button or automatically based on sensor inputs. This allows for minimal drag on the straights and maximum downforce when cornering.

That's not all, however. There are vertical control surfaces at the rear which generate aerodynamic forces to help the car change direction. Yes, it's a Pandora's box, but it would be fun to see what a car could do without any aero regulations.

Photo: Group Lotus.

Lotus E-R9 Powertrain & Range

The advanced electric drivetrain powers each wheel independently and is further enhanced by a torque vectoring system. The torque vectoring system can divert that power side-to-side, corner-to-corner and front-to-back to help slow, steer and accelerate. Lotus says 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.

The range, you might be wondering? Yes, if you think of running a Tesla at Le Mans all day and all night, it quickly becomes comical. But Louis Kerr, Principal Platform Engineer on the Lotus Evija, commented: “Battery energy density and power density are growing significantly year on year. Before 2030, we will have mixed cell chemistry batteries that will offer the best of both worlds, as well as the ability to hot swap batteries during pit stops. Even if Lotus just says "We'll deal with that later".

Photo: Lotus Group.

Only time will tell

What Lotus has here is no crazier than racing race cars. In other words, the Lotus E-R9 could run, fancy aerodynamics and all. a whole bunch at Le Mans in the next 10 years. After all, racing improves the breed. And if we want to make electric vehicles work, driving them is the best way to do it.

Tony Borroz has spent his whole life racing vintage cars and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks &; Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz.

Photo and photo source: Lotus Group.

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