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Lotus Goes on a CARB Diet

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author photo by Autotrader September 2010

It turns out that making cars go fast and making them greener are not two mutually exclusive goals. It's all got more to do with efficiency, which partly means not having to haul a lot of weight around. Lotus has built its reputation on making super-light sports cars, paring things down almost to the bone in the quest for speed and nimbleness. It's a renown fact that has not gone unnoticed by the state of California.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has commissioned this British company to conduct a study of efficient vehicles made from strong yet light materials. Considering most of its output (like the Elise, Exige and  – fabulous drivers' cars all) is made with fiberglass bodywork over an aluminum spaceframe, this is hardly going to be a stretch for Lotus. The company also races in Formula One, where cars are made predominantly from carbon fiber, which is 10 times stronger than steel but weighs about 60 percent less.

Lotus Engineering has already done some research when it was asked by CARB to undertake a preliminary look earlier this year. It found that in medium-volume vehicles (ones that sell around 50,000 units a year), mass could be reduced by 38 percent. The increase in cost would be just three percent, but fuel consumption (and therefore emissions) could be reduced by 23 percent. In almost every pursuit, weight is the enemy.

This second phase of the study will be completed by April 2011, when Lotus Engineering will have designed and analyzed a prototype vehicle that can meet demanding safety and crash tests with a mix of materials that should also include magnesium (a tough-but-light metal) and even plastics.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Lotus Goes on a CARB Diet - Autotrader