What’s New – The engineering division of the Lotus sports car company has developed a concept version of the Exige that runs on any mixture of gasoline, bioethanol and methanol – dubbed the Exige 270E Tri-Fuel. It is also the most powerful road-going version of the Exige, making the trip to 60 mph in 3.88 seconds. Lotus Engineering’s view of the future is one in which an alcohol-based fuel will be derived renewably from carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, thus creating an environmentally neutral car.
Why It Matters – Consumers have shown that they’re comfortable with the idea of gasoline-electric hybrids. But they are still wary – and rightfully so – with alternative fuels that will require a major overhaul of the fuel-delivery infrastructure. In short, they want to get their fuel in the same place and in much the same way as they have. Synthetic methanol fits that part of the equation, but the supply side of it still more than a decade away. Still, the idea of extracting CO2 from the atmosphere for fuel to run a carbon-neutral vehicle is interesting.
Lotus Exige 270E Tri-fuel Concept Preview – 2008 Geneva Auto Show: The sports car is dead. Long live the sports car. With cries from every corner that the newly enacted government fuel economy standards spell the end of performance cars, it would be easy to sink into a resigned-to-our-fate stupor. Leave that for those who believe the sky is falling, because we’re here to tell you about a sports car that runs on any combination of three fuels, gasoline, bioethanol and methanol. Lotus, whose sports car cred is unquestionable, has taken its two-seat coupe, the Exige, and set it up to burn a trio of combustibles. The Exige 270E Tri-fuel is a concept car/demonstrator for the company’s project to create the technology needed for the “transition from today’s fuels to the sustainable, synthetic fuels of the future.”
The cool part for those of a performance bent is that the 270E is faster than any other road version of the Exige, capable of a top speed of 158 mph and a 0 to 60 mph in 3.88 seconds. The turbocharged engine produces 270 horsepower. So much for the death of performance cars.
Whenever a developing fuel/energy technology is up for discussion, one of the very first questions is, “How will people get it?” Lotus is looking toward a synthetic methanol produced from CO2 taken from the atmosphere and combined with hydrogen. The fuel would use similar engines and it can be stored, transported and sold like gasoline and diesel fuel are now. While the company says the technology to use such a fuel will be available in four to five years, there’s the catch of the supply infrastructure being 15 to 20 years away.
Lotus Exige 270E Tri-fuel Concept – Under the Hood
The Tri-fuel uses the same 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine as the regular Exige. The Toyota-sourced engine uses an intercooled supercharger and variable-valve time and lift to produce 270 horsepower and 184 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s an increase of 51 horsepower and 25 lb.-ft. of torque over the same basic engine found in the production Exige S.
The rest of the Exige remains unchanged, utilizing an epoxy-bonded aluminum frame with composite fiberglass body panels, independent suspension, four-wheel antilock disc brakes, rack-and-pinion steering and six-speed manual gearbox.
Photo credit: Lotus Group