Focus ran this story when I was able to persuade Lotus – the car was, after all, only a test bed not intended for sale – to bring it onto the Hethel test track for a photo' session. As I recall, only one other journalist – a Frenchman, I think – was given access to the car. Anyway, old as it is, I've included this extract as a curiosity because last year (2013), Detroit Electric unveiled an electric car, the SP:01, based on – the Lotus Elise.
Electric cars are slow, dull, and ideal for delivering Gold Top. So are you prepared to believe you’re looking at one? Car manufacturers have tried to convince petrolheads that ‘battery driven’ doesn’t mean ‘milk float’, yet we’ve never bought it. However, the arrival of the electric Elise – the special Lotus research vehicle picture here – is a sign that car manufacturers might be about to change our minds and the future of motoring.
Lotus doesn’t only manufacture fantastic sports cars - it’s also an auto engineering consultant, and the Elise is the company’s futuristic alternative to petrol or diesel-powered vehicles. With 200bhp and a five-second 30-70mph acceleration time, this green machine can flay the hide off a red-blooded Latino sportscar like Lancia’s Delta Integrale. Okay, so you can’t buy one – yet – but the showroom electric sports car has come a step closer to reality. So how exactly does it perform?
Well, for starters, would-be Clarksons climbing into the electric car must surrender their stock of ‘throbbing tick-over’ cliches: you sit behind the wheel, turn the power on and…sod all happens! At least, not until you prod the accelerator and hear the unfamiliar whistle of inducted current. There’s no clutch to drop, no hurried gear change, and no engine roar; the Elise simply ceases to be stationary, rather like a tube train pulling out of the station.
Initial acceleration isn’t the strong point of electric cars – although the Elise would be no traffic-light laggard – but by 30mph its Zytek motors are coming into their own. And in the real world of overtaking and acceleration out of bends, the electric car’s mid-range acceleration counts for more than any 0-60mph antics. In fact, an entertaining but wholly unscientific roll-on test during our photoshoot had the electric Elise out-accelerating the petrol-driven version, which the battery car outguns in the power stakes by some 70 per cent...
In the real world of overtaking and acceleration out of bends, the electric car’s five-second 30-70mph acceleration time counts for more than any 0-60mph antics