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AI interviews Mike Kimberley, CEO of Group Lotus plc. and Paul Newsome, MD of Lotus Engineering

In September, Lotus Engineering, the engineering consultancy division of Group Lotus Plc, announced that along with Siemens VDO, it was embarking on a research and development program to cut CO2 emissions of future petrol-fuelled vehicles. The Low CO2 engine in a demonstrator vehicle is expected to be unveiled by the end of the year.

“Efficient performance is a core focus of Lotus Engineering and we are working on many ways to drive down CO2 emissions. With our numerous on-going bio-fuel, hybrid and electric vehicle projects based on Lotus’ fundamentally ecologically-designed products using all-aluminum low weight structures for exceptional fuel economy with extreme driving pleasure, we are continually reinforcing our position as world leaders in ‘green’ automotive engineering,” says Mike Kimberley, Chief Executive of Group Lotus plc.

Adds Geraint Castleton-White, head of powertrain at Lotus Engineering: “Two key drivers for OEM’s are cost-down and the reduction of CO2 emissions. Our IEM (integrated exhaust manifold ) technology brings to a practical reality an established principle that has been very challenging to implement in production. Over a series of design projects, we have developed a proven expertise in the application of IEM designs, and we can now deliver the significant benefits of this technology to our clients.”

The Hethel, United-Kingdom-based Lotus Engineering offers a full range of automotive engineering solutions. From initial conceptualization and product design, through development, testing and prototype building – it also offers production support. The company has worked with the world’s top automotive manufacturers and suppliers including on products like Aston Martin’s Vanquish, the Opel Speedster as well as its own cars – the Lotus vehicles.

In September, Carbon Motors Corporation and Lotus Engineering announced that the two will collaborate on the development of the world’s first purpose-built law enforcement patrol vehicle. This vehicle promises to offer a superior performing product with safer, more efficient features for law enforcement officers and a 30 to 50 per cent reduction in fuel usage and CO2 emissions.

“I am personally very excited at this opportunity to demonstrate, not only to the USA, but also to the world what two creative companies such as Carbon Motors Corporation and Lotus Engineering can achieve. We will do everything possible to ensure the success of this tremendously exciting, innovative and creative project which, in my personal view, will meet the needs of the law enforcement automotive segment in the USA,” said Kimberley during the announcement of the collaboration.

Lotus Engineering is also consolidating its presence in the global arena. It recently opened an office in Tokyo, Japan, appointing automotive engineering veteran, Hiroyuki Hori, as business development manager for the country. The company expects its Japanese market to grow threefold compared to 2006-07.

“With Japanese companies at the forefront of the automotive industry, we foresee increasing opportunities for our world-class engineering and technologies in that market. The new representative office is a very positive commitment to delivering the very best service to our clients in Japan as our work there grows,” said Kimberley.

Lotus Engineering also became the consultancy for Jinhua Youngman Automobile Manufacturing Co Ltd – a Chinese commercial vehicle company which wants to start manufacturing passenger cars. The company is working on a four-door salon which Lotus has begun developing at its base in Hethel and other centers across the world. Lotus Engineering has offices in Hethel, UK ( its headquarters), its North American business, is serviced by its Michigan, USA offices. And its Asian arm, Lotus Engineering Malaysia Sdn Bhd, provides engineering consultancy services to clients in Asia through offices in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Shanghai, China. Lotus Engineering Inc.

At this year’s Geneva International Motor Show, Lotus Engineering had unveiled its EVE Hybrid (Efficient, Viable, Environmental) technology demonstrator. Developed for Proton (a majority shareholder in the Lotus Group), it hopes to integrate hybrid technology with minimal development time and costs. Eventually, Lotus Engineering hopes to provide OEMs with the ability to introduce hybrid variants of medium-high volume production cars. Currently, the EVE Hybrid demonstrator is based on a Proton Gen.2 compact midsize car with a 1.6 liter gasoline engine. It showcases three production-representative technologies – a micro-hybrid start-stop system, a full parallel hybrid drive and continuously variable transmission.

“Lotus Engineering believes the application of hybrid technology is a key route for CO2 emissions reduction and that for the next five years it remains more viable to integrate hybrid technologies into existing model ranges than to develop expensive new dedicated hybrid platforms. Lotus Engineering’s solutions will help manufacturers to keep price premiums for hybrid variants at a minimum thanks to lower development costs and are available immediately for introduction within current and next generation model lifecycles,” says the company.

Since 1997, Lotus Engineering has been working closely with Loughborough University’s Department of Aeronautical and Automotive Engineering on research projects. In 2000, Lotus installed an advanced single cylinder, optically accessed engine at Loughborough to exploit a combination of the university state-of-the-art laser diagnostics facilities with Lotus know how and experience of engine design. The company says that this collaboration has resulted in the study of injection spray characterization, in-cylinder air motion and combustion phenomena under different engine conditions. The work is continuing with investigations into new combustion strategies for future gasoline engines.

Automotive Industries spoke to Mike Kimberley, Chief Executive Officer of Group Lotus plc.

AI: What role do you see Lotus Engineering playing in the future of Group Lotus?

Lotus Engineering is, and always will be the division of Group Lotus that designs and develops Lotus cars for global sale. We have a huge advantage over our sportscar competitors in that 70% of all the work that Lotus Engineering does is for the rest of the world’s car industry, so we have a huge pool of talent to call upon to design what we believe are the finest, most focused, exciting and technologically advanced true sportscars in the world. Lotus Engineering is now reaping the rewards for its hard work in building up a valuable client base in the rapidly growing new markets of China, India, the Middle East and South America as well as responding to the changing market demands in the more traditional engineering markets of Europe, North America, Korea and Japan. We see the high technology capabilities of Lotus Engineering being more and more in demand as the world’s automotive industry focuses on its environmental obligations to reduce CO2 and increase efficiencies so emulating Lotus’ DNA of low weight, high efficiency with exceptional primary as well as secondary safety.

AI: How important is your Tokyo office as part of your business plan for Asia?

Our Tokyo Office is very important for Japan – with Japanese companies at the forefront of the automotive industry, we anticipate a threefold increase in work from the Japanese market this year compared to 2006/7 and foresee increasing opportunities for our world-class engineering and technologies in that market. The new representative office is a very positive commitment to delivering the very best service to our clients in Japan as our work there grows.

AI: What business potential do you see in the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) countries?

Massive! And we are already in those markets, albeit not as deeply as we plan to be in the future. BRIC has huge amounts of potential and we at Lotus are able to supply them with all their needs at an Engineering consultancy level.

AI: Where do you see Lotus Engineering in five years time?

I expect that we will be able to cement our position as a world leading engineering consultancy with our global headquarters in Norfolk England with growing centres, facilities and offices around the world. Also in 5 years time Lotus Cars will have put 3 new cars into the market place, and as Lotus Engineering will have designed, developed, tested and proven these cars we will have the real endorsement of showcasing products that prove Lotus Engineering’s capabilities. The real challenge is the environment – we are leading the world in green transport engineering, not only does our brand value of “performance through light-weight” fit perfectly with the necessary direction that the industry is heading, we are also working on almost all aspects of future alternative fuels, new powertrain systems such as electric and hybrid as well as making the standard internal combustion engine more efficient. The auto industry has lots to do, but I can guarantee that Lotus will be at the forefront.

Automotive Industries spoke to Paul Newsome, managing director of Lotus Engineering.

AI: Please tell us a little about your success across the globe as a high technology consultancy firm for the automotive industry.

This is quite simple. We are agile, flexible, adaptable, global, independent and confidential. Most importantly, however, we offer the rest of the industry high technology solutions to the problems that are hitting and will hit our industry over the next few years, whether it be lowering CO2, lightweight structures, higher performance or increased efficiency. Also our past client solutions track record is enviable and helps with our brand building, which linked to the fabulous sportscars that we produce, is the best advertisement for us.

AI: Tell us a little about your company’s focus on lowering CO2 emissions – how difficult has it been to stick to your guns on this point and why is it so important to your company?

It is easy for Lotus to stick to its guns as efficiency was the key philosophy of our founder Colin Chapman. We have stuck rigidly to this “performance through light-weight” value for the last 60 years – it has worked very well for us as our results demonstrate and this mantra is now rubbing off on the rest of the industry – everyone is trying to reduce the weight of their products and many are coming to us for help. But as Mike explained earlier, it is not just our inherent engineering policy that leads the way; it is our high technology solutions in green engineering that we can offer – cleaner engines, novel drive-trains, lightweight efficiencies and so on.

AI: Which of the technologies that your company is working on do you see becoming a commercial success?

We expect that all the research we do will have a commercial benefit for us and our clients in the future. We don’t do research for fun! Ultimately, any of our technologies and there are too many to mention, that result in the reduction of emissions and CO2 are likely to be successful.

AI: How do you expect your Japanese market to grow? Why do you think business will grow threefold there?

The Japanese market is an amazing place to be. The Japanese car companies have an enviable reputation of pushing the technology envelope further and more rapidly than anyone else for production. Fortunately what we can offer them is what they want; our clients in Japan are brave enough to explore and take up our offerings and services which have given positive commercial results in the past for them and we expect to continue in the future, too.

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Sat. July 13th, 2024

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