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Lotus previews enduro-racer of the future. Image by Lotus.

Lotus previews enduro-racer of the future
The Lotus E-R9 concept has morphing body panels, a delta-wing form and fully electric power.
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What's all this about?

You're looking at a slice of the future which references the past.

I... what?!

Sigh. So this is the Lotus E-R9. It's a concept car which might be on the grids of the world's racetracks in 2030. It is an all-electric endurance racer, at that, which partly explains its name; the 'E-R' bit simply stands for 'Endurance Racer'. Presumably, 'EE-R' for 'Electric Endurance Racer' wouldn't have looked so good. Perhaps the company could have gone with 'Electric Vehicle Endurance Racer' and 'EVER-9', but perhaps we're also going off on a wild, rambling tangent. Sorry.

So, back on the theme and the '9', and the fact it is black and gold in colour, references Lotus' glittering motorsport past. You see, in 1955, Lotus first appeared at the fabled Le Mans endurance race in the Mark IX, hence '9'. And if the E-R9 were to take the field in 2030, then it would be the 75th anniversary of that long-haul-racing debut in France. As to the distinctive paintwork, Lotus has 13 Formula 1 Championship titles to its name and one of its most famous liveries was the John Player Special get-up, which of course was rendered in luscious black and gold.

OK, but I notice you said concept car. So is this all just a flight of fantasy?

Not sure. Lotus Engineering has done the work and some pretty heavyweight names have been involved in the development of the E-R9, including Richard Hill (Lotus' chief aerodynamicist), Louis Kerr (principal platform engineer on the Evija EV hypercar and also GT technical director for the entire Geely Group Motorsports International crew) and Russell Carr (Lotus' design director). And, for what it's worth, Richard Hill says this: "What we've tried to do is to push the boundaries of where we are technically today and extrapolate into the future. The Lotus E-R9 incorporates technologies which we fully expect to develop and be practical. Lotus has an amazing history of developing unique solutions, and we've done it many times in motorsport and with our road cars."

The E-R9 has some serious tech on it, too. Its main body is the highly aerodynamic delta-wing form, while it has both active aerodynamics and also vertically mounted control surfaces. Indeed, on the active aero from, 'morphing' body panels mounted across the delta-wing's surface can change their shape and attitude to the airflow by one of two means: either the driver presses a switch in the cab, which isn't massively revolutionary; or, more excitingly, the panels can automatically morph according to data gleaned from performance sensor inputs. Meanwhile, the vertical control surfaces at the rear work to generate aerodynamic forces that would help the E-R9 change direction, above and beyond the limitations of grip provided at the contact patches of the tyres. It is to this end that Lotus describes controlling the concept as 'a racer that's partly driven like a car and partly flown like a fighter jet'.

Groovy. And what about power?

Oh, no word on specifics, apart from to say that the E-R9 has an electric powertrain for each wheel, allowing for enhanced torque vectoring. This builds on technology that we'll see in the forthcoming Evija EV, although the concept endurance racer would allow its driver to fully adjust this torque-vectoring while on the move. Louis Kerr added: "Battery energy density and power density are developing significantly year-on-year. Before 2030, we'll have mixed cell chemistry batteries that give the best of both worlds, as well as the ability to 'hot-swap' batteries during pitstops."

Matt Robinson - 16 Feb 2021

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