Lotus took a big leap towards the mainstream with the announcement it's building four new EVs, and only one is a sports car. The others include a sedan and two SUVs. And on top of the new product announcements, the automaker revealed its Lotus Technology division is going to set up headquarters in Wuhan, China.
With the Elise out of the picture and its pockets full of cash from Geely – parent company to Volvo, too – Lotus is moving forward with its ambitious expansion plans. It announced it will grow its line-up of models with four electric cars shown in the sketch above: an SUV called Type 132 internally and due out in 2022, a sedan marketed as a four-door coupe known as Type 133 and expected to go on sale in 2023, a second SUV referred to as the Type 134 that will make its debut in 2025, and a sports car currently dubbed Type 135 that we'll allegedly see in 2026. This isn't the first time Lotus has made wild claims about its future, but this time it might actually have the funds to pull it off.
We knew that an SUV was in the pipeline, leaked patent images may have revealed its exterior design, but the sedan and the second high-riding model are new additions to the company's product roadmap. Lotus explained its so-called "premium lifestyle" vehicles (read: four-door models) will all ride on a new platform called Lotus Premium that's said to be highly modular. Its wheelbase can vary from about 114 to 122 inches, and it can take battery packs with a capacity of 92 to 120 kilowatt hours. It's also compatible with an 800-volt charging system, and Lotus claims vehicles built on the new architecture will be capable of reaching 60 mph from a stop in less than three seconds.
As for the other news, while Lotus ostensibly remains based in Hethel, England, its historic home, the Lotus Technology subsidiary broke ground on a new facility in China in August 2021. Lotus explained it formed the division to develop batteries and energy management systems, electric motors, electric control systems and other EV components.
Investing in Wuhan rather than in Hethel will certainly raise more than a few eyebrows. It's a move that brings Lotus closer to its parent company and some of its key investors, such as Nio, while pivoting it away from its historic home and its main markets. Surprisingly, the firm declared it shares many common interests with Nio (one of the carmakers hoping to become China's answer to Tesla) and hinted the two brands could explore potential areas of collaboration.
Lotus Technology will inaugurate its headquarters in Wuhan, China, in 2024, but that's not the only big investment in the area. Lotus is also building a $1.24 million factory in Wuhan that's scheduled to open later in 2021. The aforementioned "premium lifestyle" models will all come from Wuhan, the firm noted, and it sounds like they'll be sold around the world. America wasn't singled out in the announcement, but Lotus told Autoblog in 2020 that every new car in the product plan will be available globally.
If needed, the plant will be able to build up to 150,000 cars annually, which is an absolutely massive number in the grand scheme of things. For context, Lotus built around 55,000 units of the Elise, the Exige and the Evora, and that number represents over half of the production cars the company has built since its inception in 1948. Clearly, uprooting Lotus from the United Kingdom and planting it in China is a way to emerge from a niche and seek volume.
England won't be completely crossed out of the equation. The facility in Hethel will be responsible for developing and building sports cars, like the limited-edition Evija and — presumably — the Type 136 that we'll see during the second half of the decade. These are low-volume models; the core cars will all carry a "made in China" label.
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