First Look: Lotus City Car Concept

Lotus unveiled a lot of future products at the 2010 Paris auto show, but the City Car concept is the most puzzling. This tiny plug-in hybrid or full electric vehicle is slightly larger than a Toyota iQ and uses the powertrain we first saw in the EMAS concept at this year's Geneva auto show.

When we got a sneak peek at the cars Lotus planned to show in Paris, the City Car concept had clearly not been given the green light for production. Today at the show it sounded like Lotus was hoping another automaker would like to contract with Lotus Engineering to build a production version of the City Car for them. If Lotus ultimately decided to produce the City Car as a Lotus, the vehicle would run £20,000 for a basic EV and £25,000 for the range-extended EV.

A three-door hatchback like the City Car concept could weigh 2535 pounds as an EV and still reach 60 mph in less than nine seconds. Lotus plans to fit the range-extender version with a monoblock aluminum engine that would recharge the lithium-ion battery pack for longer journeys. The EV range is approximately 31 miles, according to Lotus.

Though the City Car is nothing like the track toys most people would expect from Lotus, it might make sense to sell such a vehicle in order to bank emissions credits that could be used to offset more extreme vehicles such as the new Esprit as emissions regulations become increasingly strict.

If nothing else, the City Car concept is a great reminder of how strong the engineering side of Group Lotus can be. Lotus Engineering has contributed to the development of vehicles like the original Corvette ZR-1, DeLorean DMC-12, and the Tesla Roadster. Look for Lotus Engineering to increase its interest in electric, hybrid, and other alternative forms of propulsion in the future. We've heard the group would like to become a leader in the calibration of complex systems like hybrid integration because those areas are becoming important to virtually every automaker and it takes a long time to develop that expertise in-house.

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