Sports car maker Lotus plans to enter the electric vehicle race, CEO Michael Kimberley told the Financial Times last week. “Don’t be surprised to see an electric Lotus shortly,” he said, adding that a concept version could debut as early as March, at Geneva’s International Motor Show. For now, Kimberley said, “We are working on the technologies that will go behind it.”
Of course, the technologies behind an extended-range electric vehicle — Lotus’s chosen route to a battery-powered model — represent no small amount of work and potential for delays. The company, which builds bodies for the Tesla Roadster, plans to turn to a “major automotive manufacturer” for many of the model’s key components, including a fuel-based range extender. Tesla Motors, a likely rival for Lotus if its plans go through, has also turned to contractors for parts of the all-electric Roadster.
Lotus has some serious catching up to do — Fisker Automotive, GM and Tesla revved their engines for an EV race years ago, and Tesla is rumored to have a deal with a large automaker (likely Daimler) for its third-generation vehicle. But Lotus also has an opportunity to avoid some of the pitfalls that hampered early movers. As the first luxury electric sports car startup to enter production, Tesla has learned a series of lessons the hard way. For example, after being sued by Magna Powertrain, the company hired to design and build transmissions for the Roadster and an as-yet unseen sedan, Tesla’s then-VP of sales, marketing and service, Darryl Siry, told us, “One of our lessons is that we need to have more control over our fate and manage the process in house.” Another lesson? Watch out for suppliers and contractors launching out on their own.