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Lotus Unveils Project Eagle Module and 200kw Exige

March 11th, 2008

Two reveals of a different kind for Lotus in Geneva.

Lotus Cars has unveiled the first glimpse of the eagerly awaited Project Eagle at the Geneva International Motor Show, and is showing the first Exige to produce more than 200kW.

The slightly unconventional reveal showcases the front module of the chassis and the development of the innovative Lotus Versatile Vehicle Architecture (VVA) being utilised for Project Eagle, the 2+2 Lotus sports car to be fully unveiled at the British Motor Show in July.

Project Eagle is the code name for the new higher specification addition to the Lotus product range entering the market above the Elise, Exige and Europa. Going into production at the beginning of next year, Project Eagle draws heavily on the proven technology used in the iconic Lotus Elise family of vehicles as well as the VVA shown as the APX (Aluminium Performance Crossover) Concept Vehicle.

Project Eagle will be an all new fantastic Lotus sports car, which illustrates Lotus Engineering's ability to create innovative and exciting high performance niche car products.

Mike Kimberley CEO of Group Lotus said: "I am delighted with the exceptional 'fast-track' progress of Project Eagle - the project is hitting key gateway, timing and technical objectives. The project utilises our core competencies in aluminium, and composite body engineering, jointing techniques, and vehicle systems integration."

Kimberley added: "This is a very exciting period for us at Lotus and the whole company is enjoying the challenge of delivering such an exceptional new Lotus car. By showing this front module at Geneva, we are proving that the new Lotus is a reality and that VVA is an advanced ecological technology from which further Lotus models will be produced, thus giving Lotus a true 'multi-platform' line-up over the next five years".

Project Eagle Front Module

The innovative VVA architecture for Project Eagle consists of three distinct parts, with the centre occupant section being the largest. Bolted to this centre section is the rear sub frame to which the engine and rear suspension are attached and the front module that incorporates the bumper beam and side members that progressively absorb crash energy.

Practicality has been a major consideration with in-built serviceability factored into the design. Various systems attach to the front module including the suspension, cooling pack, HVAC and body. The aluminium front module on its own measures 938mm long, 864 mm wide and 387 mm tall and weighs in at a featherweight 25kg, again 'ecologically' biased.

Project Eagle suspension wishbones are forged from aluminium to reduce the unsprung mass. These are similar in weight to the steel items found on the much smaller Elise, Exige and Europa vehicle, but have a far higher vehicle weight capability. They attach to the front module via bespoke lightweight bushes.

All Lotus cars have to be fun to drive and deliver a sensational, class leading driving experience. Project Eagle will be using Bilstein dampers and Eibach springs with unique dual path top mounts for optimised vehicle refinement. The high performance bespoke Lotus AP Racing four-piston callipers work in tandem with ventilated cross drilled 350mm diameter brake discs to ensure phenomenal stopping power. Hydraulically assisted power steering will be employed with a TRW steering rack.

Versatile Vehicle Architecture

The innovative Lotus Engineering VVA technology offers a fast-to-market, cost-effective approach to differentiated niche products by spreading the development, investment and the bill of materials burden across a range of vehicle variants, without the compromise that stems from conventional `platform sharing'.

The philosophy is based on the commonality and versatility of key elements of the vehicle structure and body systems across a 'family' of niche vehicle variants that meet all world homologation and safety requirements.

Richard Rackham, Vehicle Architect of Lotus Engineering, said "Producing a bespoke low-volume platform using normal methods is uneconomical, whilst sharing a mainstream platform normally results in compromises in performance and design. Traditionally car manufacturers seeking to gain competitive advantage through exciting niche vehicles have to either design a new platform or share one already available. The great advantage of this VVA technology is that it can be used by one car manufacturer looking to develop a range of niche products, or by a group of car manufacturers looking to share investment, but still retain a high degree of end product separation."

The Project Eagle chassis is an evolution of the Versatile Vehicle Architecture (VVA) from the Lotus APX concept vehicle previously showcased at Geneva, and allows for the development of a range of vehicles up to a gross vehicle weight of 1900kg. This architecture has been designed to be more applicable to mid-volume applications by utilising low capital investment manufacturing processes. The Project Eagle structure progresses the Lotus bonded technology used in the Elise family of vehicles with unique extrusions and folded panels, whilst providing contemporary ease of ingress/egress, build modularity and improved, lower cost repairability.

The Low Volume VVA architecture has been designed so that it can be stretched in width, length and height. The strength and stiffness of the low volume VVA chassis can be modified cost effectively by varying the wall thickness of the extrusions, without altering the exterior dimensions. Combining the ability to lengthen or shorten extrusions with the option to tailor the chassis stiffness, vastly increases the number of vehicles that could be developed from this vehicle architecture. Front and mid engine installations have been considered, as well as hybrid and Electric Vehicle (EV) applications.

Project Eagle employs a composite roof as a stressed structural member to give an exceptional vehicle stiffness of 26,000Nm per degree. To deliver this high performance structure, bonded and riveted high grade aluminium extrusions and simple and elegant folded sheet elements are used in the lower structure, building upon award winning research projects in this field.

Lotus pioneered the aerospace technology of bonded aluminium extrusions for use in road vehicles and has successfully developed high performance cars for global engineering clients using this approach.

Project Eagle

The development of Project Eagle is advancing rapidly, with engineering prototypes already conducting testing in Northern Europe and at Lotus' headquarters at Hethel, England. The ride and handling and cold weather testing currently being undertaken forms an early part of the demanding worldwide industry standard vehicle development programme for Project Eagle. One of Lotus Engineering's strengths is its ability to streamline design and development, thereby reducing time to production and project costs.

Lotus Exige 270E with 201kW

Also in display at the Geneva motor show is the Lotus Exige 270E Tri-fuel, the first Exige to pass the 200kW mark.

The most powerful road going Exige develops 201kW at 8000rpm and 260Nm at 5500rpm, and runs 0-60mph in 3.88 seconds on a mixture of gasoline, bio-ethanol and methanol. Emerging technologies will allow alcohol fuels such as methanol, already a proven internal combustion fuel, to be made synthetically from CO2 extracted from the atmosphere.

As well as being green, the great benefit of synthetic methanol is that it would use similar engines and fuel systems to those in current cars; and synthetic methanol can be stored, transported and retailed in much the same way as today's liquid fuels such as gasoline and diesel. Synthetic methanol also possesses properties better suited to internal combustion than today's liquid fuels, giving improved performance and thermal efficiencies. And it is ideal for pressure-charging (turbocharging and supercharging) already being introduced by manufacturers to downsize engines in a bid to improve fuel consumption.

Lotus Engineering's Lotus Exige 270E Tri-fuel runs the same 1.8-litre 2ZZ-GT VVTL-I engine as in the regular Exige S.

Only small changes to engines are required such as sensors to detect alcohol content, modified ECU software, and a fuel system compatible with alcohol fuels, along with the higher flow rate fuel pump and injectors required to produce the 200kW.

The tri-fuel Exige 270E has been developed as a concept vehicle to showcase the environmental focus adopted by Group Lotus and to further express that 'green' vehicles can also produce exceptional performance.

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