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10 January, 2007 - 17:57 By Staff Reporter

£70m Brazilian bait for Lotus

Lotus Engineering is to play a key role in the development of two highly stylised urban microsports cars capable of running on bioethanol, gasoline and natural gas and geared towards a potentially massive emerging global market.

Lotus Engineering is to play a key role in the development of two highly stylised urban microsports cars capable of running on bioethanol, gasoline and natural gas and geared towards a potentially massive emerging global market.

Lotus will deliver a full engineering programme for new Brazilian automotive manufacturer, Obvio! Automotoveiculos SA, in a deal which has a potential value of over £70 million for the Norfolk firm.

Configured to sit a driver and two passengers three-abreast, these highly distinctive and innovative lightweight scissor-doored ‘trybrids’ are being designed for urban markets worldwide and will be the first products to come from the Rio de Janeiro-based OEM.

Obvio! has already signed a $700m (£360m) pre-paid contract to supply a total of 50,000 units per annum to its exclusive North American distributor, California-based ZAP – Zero Air Pollution. Distributors for other major world markets will be appointed over the next 18 months.

Ricardo Machado, chief executive at Obvio!, said: “Lotus Engineering was a clear first choice as our engineering consultancy. It has an impressive track record in managing complex engineering projects and in developing exciting, efficient cars; its wide range of expertise will be invaluable to us.

“We will now move forward together at a fast pace to bring these high performance ultra-safe urban microsports cars to the US, European and Japanese markets.”

A core Obvio!-Lotus engineering management team will be based in a dedicated project centre at Lotus’ Hethel headquarters to manage the engineering programme for the two Obvio! models, 012 and 828.

The engineering programme will include the development of an advanced vehicle safety structure based on aerospace technology, the integration of the trybrid engines and other powertrain variants.

It will be delivered by Lotus Engineering facilities worldwide and for the first time by a group of high-profile Brazilian-based tier one suppliers who will be heavily involved from the very earliest stages. The two vehicles will be built in Brazil, with production expected to start late in 2008.

The 012 and 828 models will use an aluminium structure with composite body panels. Both left and right hand drive configurations will be available using a bench type seat that is capable of seating three across. A two door ‘scissor’ design will be used to aid access and parking in tight spaces.

Lotus Engineering will work with a range of Brazilian ‘supplier partners’ to develop two variants of the new chassis concept which will be engineered incorporating Niess Elliptical Survival Rings, already well-proven in the aerospace industry.

The concept allows for very light structures – target weight for the 012 is 750kgs (1,648 lbs) and for the 828 is 600kgs (1,318 lbs).

This will enable the vehicles to feature exceptionally good performance characteristics while also running with highly efficient and economical power plants.

Initially, power will come from a 1.6-litre unit produced by Brazilian engine manufacturer Tritec Motors. Lotus Engineering will develop a new engine management unit, which will give the engine the trybrid capabilities, running automatically on natural gas, bio-ethanol or gasoline.

In parallel, Lotus will develop 170hp and 250hp turbocharged variants for higher performance models in the Obvio! range. Electrically-powered variants of both cars are expected to follow shortly after the trybrid models.

Group Lotus chief executive, Mike Kimberley, said: “This agreement means a great deal to us – not only are we delivering a very strong technical offering but we will once again have the opportunity to ‘connect’ our iconic Lotus brand to Brazil.

“Three of the country’s most famous sports personalities, Emerson Fittipaldi, Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna, played a major role in helping Team Lotus to win 79 Grands Prix and seven Constructors’ Championships in Formula One.

“With this heritage behind us, we are proud to be able to play a leading role in the development of the Brazilian car industry.”

Lotus Engineering is already working on a range of alternative fuel projects for various clients and recently developed a bio-ethanol fuelled Lotus Exige 265E concept car for sister company Lotus Cars.



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