When Lotus isn’t engineering cool cars like the Evora, dealing with PR snafus, or worrying about whether or not it’s going to be sold in a few months, it takes on contract work to lighten vehicles for other firms.
Most recently, the company known for having feather-light sports cars consulted with the California Air Resources Board to work on altering a Toyota Venza for improved fuel economy at no additional manufacturing cost. It achieved the feat by lightening the car 36 percent.
As you might expect, that isn’t a simple task. In a yet-to-be-released report previewed by Automotive News Lotus attacked the challenge by replacing the car’s standard steel frame with a body-in-white composed of magnesium, aluminum, high-strength steel and composite materials. The trouble is, that procedure also added 50 percent to the cost.
Not to be defeated, the company then consolidated the roughly 400 parts that go into making the rest of the car down to a scant 170 pieces. Doing that shrunk the cost by 57 percent, meaning the car would be significantly more fuel efficient while effectively offsetting the new expense.
It might seem strange that a company in the middle of such serious perceived turmoil would double as a weekend efficiency expert, but then again it’s the same brand that has a reputation for being car lovers first and a serious company second.
What is serious, on the other hand, is how much the modded Venza stands to gain. Lotus Engineering’s North American head Darren Somerset said for every 10 percent a car loses in weight, it gains between 6 to 8 percent in fuel efficiency. When it’s all shaken down, the car cost about 3 percent more than the stock version, but got 23 percent better mileage.
While Toyota didn’t conduct the experiment, the California Air Resources Board hopes that by demonstrating the viability of such technology it will encourage automakers to reexamine how cars are built.
[Source: Automotive News]