The Eco Elise project promotes a different perspective on “green”, one which does not revolve solely around tailpipe CO2. This holistic approach is in keeping with the progressive Lotus culture, driving Lotus to become the world’s green automotive consultancy. Sustainable materials, hemp, eco wool and sisal have been developed for body panels and trim and, combined with hi-tech water based paint solutions, showcase new affordable green technologies. The green credentials of the technology on show in the Eco Elise have been analysed throughout the lifecycle of the car.A green gear change display has been integrated into the dashboard to promote greener driving as well as a weight reduction programme, illustrating the holistic approach taken. The energy expended to manufacture the car has been evaluated, working to the 3R’s - Reduce, Re-use and Recycle.
The new green materials sourced for this car have been carefully studied to ensure that each technology used reduces the environmental impact of the vehicle. The life of the components has been analysed; during the production stage, in-use and at the end of the vehicle’s life. The technology used aims to offer lower emissions of both solvents and CO2 in the lifecycle of the vehicle, with reductions in energy consumed during manufacture.
The renewable materials have been incorporated into the project, with hemp, eco wool and sisal providing natural, biodegradable engineering materials. Cleaner manufacturing processes have been sought, utilising the latest water based paint technology. Using this paint system saves energy and reduces emissions of solvents from the paint shop. Solar panels have been set into the hemp hard top to help power the electrical systems and give a means of renewable energy generation.With the use of locally farmed hemp, the carbon miles to produce the Eco Elise are reduced, in keeping with the holistic approach to this vehicle. The Eco Elise puts an emphasis on efficient driving techniques by using an “economy” gear change display to improve fuel efficiency and promote greener driving. The car has undergone a weight reduction programme to add a little extra lightness, assisting in more economical, greener driving.
Sustainable hemp technical fabrics have been used as the primary constituent in the high quality “A” class composite body panels and spoiler. The renewable hemp has exceptional material properties that make for a very strong fibre. Historically hemp has been used in the manufacture of rope, illustrating the great strength of the material.
The hemp fibres have also been used in the manufacture of the lightweight Lotus designed seats. An additional benefit of using hemp is that it is a natural resource that requires relatively low energy to manufacture and absorbs CO2 whilst growing as a plant through natural photosynthesis.
Whilst improving the green credentials of the Lotus production facilities, the Lotus Paint Facility, in partnership with Du Pont developed a totally water-based paint system. This paint solution includes primer, colour coat and lacquer, and it is the first time that it has been possible to hand spray a water based “A” class production paint finish. In using this progressive water based technology, Lotus was able to achieve impressive savings in energy consumption due to the low cure temperature this paint requires. An additional benefit of this paint system is the reduction in emissions of solvents, all of which contribute to substantial cost savings for Lotus. This is a result of the unique collaboration with Du Pont in pushing forward low-volume paint spraying technology. This technology is anticipated to be available in production cars in the near future.
The hemp hard top on the Eco Elise has two flexible solar panels neatly embedded in the roof, contributing power to the electrical systems and saving energy that would be drained from the engine. The solar panels have been integrated into the hard top to illustrate the feasibility of applying this technology. This application shows the installation of solar panels into a composite “A” class panel with a double curvature. Using this technology on a greater number of panels would make it possible to provide more power, especially on a larger vehicle.
The hemp fibres have been farmed in East Anglia, thus reducing the carbon miles incurred in the production of this Elise. Lotus Manufacturing has component manufacturing facilities and a paint facility at its headquarters in Hethel, Norfolk, with another manufacturing site a short distance away in Norwich. The company operates a carefully managed logistics system operating between sites to improve efficiency, reduce costs and carbon miles. This is a Kanban driven barcode system that has been adopted by key suppliers. The process also uses packaging that is recycled many times over to eliminate waste.
Lotus cars have red shift lights to help drivers extract the maximum performance from the engine. However for the Eco Elise, Lotus designed software has been developed to assist drivers in maximising the fuel efficiency of the engine. A green gear shift display has been integrated into the instrument panel to ensure that gears are changed at the optimum point to reduce emissions and save fuel.
"Performance through light weight" is so synonymous with Lotus. The reduction in mass improves the handling and braking performance and also reduces the effort required to accelerate the car. The weight reduction philosophy has even extended to the audio system with an exceptionally lightweight stereo and speaker system from Alpine saving 1.5 kg (3.3 lb). The system uses MP3/ iPod technology in a sleek modern design. The Eco Elise uses special lightweight wheels that reduce the unsprung mass and contribute a weight saving of approximately 15.8 kg (34.8 lb) over the already super light Elise wheels. The weight saving programme for the Eco Elise has resulted in a total saving of around 32 kg (70.5 lb) over the feather light Elise S, which reduces the fuel required to drive the car.