Lotus E-R9 previews electric racing future

"Partly driven like a car and partly flown like a fighter jet" – here's how Lotus sees racing cars in 2030

By Matt Bird / Tuesday, February 16, 2021 / Loading comments

Remember when Lotus announcements were seasonal events? Now, they come thick and fast. This one is from Lotus Engineering rather than the cars side, the E-R9 concept created "as a technology showcase of its [Engineering's] philosophy, capability and innovative spirit in the fields of advanced electrified powertrains and aerodynamics."

So, yes, it's an electric racer, albeit not one designed just for 15-minute city centre sprints. 'E-R' stands for Endurance Racer, as Lotus believes that by 2030 – the year it envisions a car like this could race – the advances in battery technology will make electric enduros possible. Battery energy density and power density will improve with mixed cell chemistry batteries, and it's reckoned that it'll be possible by then for battery units to be easily swapped during pit stops.

The '9' is significant here, too, paying tribute to the Mk IX that raced at the 1955 Le Mans 24 Hours – the first Lotus to do so. If an ER-9 competed in 2030, it would be 75 years since the Mk IX debuted.

Painted black and gold – what else could it be – the Lotus E-R9 features 'morphing' body panels, where surfaces of the car can change their attitude to the air flow either at the driver's request or automatically in response to sensors. The logic being that the ER-9 could deliver maximum downforce in bends and extremely low drag on the straights. The morphing panels even include rear vertical control surfaces, helping the car turn beyond the limitations of the physical tyre; Lotus goes as far as to say that the E-R9 is "partly driven like a car and partly flown like a fighter jet."

Proposed power comes from an evolution of the Evija's electric technology, with a motor in each wheel and torque vectoring fully adjustable by the driver as the race is going on. Between that and the morphing body panels, the driver-pilots will be kept busy!

The E-R9 was developed by the engineering team of Richard Hill, chief aerodynamicist, and Louis Kerr, principal platform engineer on the Evija. The former said of this latest Lotus: "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." So perhaps at some point this will be looked back on with the same reverence as the Type 49 and 72 are today. But whatever the future exactly holds for motorsport, this E-R9 does at least point to Lotus's ambition to be involved with it – and that sounds like good news to us.

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