The engineering development programme for the Lotus Evija all-electric hypercar is continuing at pace. Just last month Lotus premiered a new film of the car on track at its Hethel headquarters, with Gavan Kershaw explaining for the first time the Evija’s five drive modes and how it’s a true Lotus.
As the brand’s Director of Vehicle Attributes, Gavan leads the team which ensures the Evija has all the outstanding dynamic performance the world has come to expect from a Lotus car.
But he’s not the only one getting behind the wheel – there is a team of highly experienced engineers involved on the project.
James Hazlehurst is the Lotus test driver who has spent the most time driving the Evija prototypes, both at Hethel and at other locations around the world. James has logged almost 100 hours in the hot seat, and here explains what it’s been like…
“Vehicle dynamics is an amazing mix of creativity and engineering science, and comes with a lot of responsibility – you are building on the work of everyone that’s come before you in the development programme, and have to bring together the output of so many different departments to get everything working in harmony on the car.
After countless hours of calculations, computer analysis, component design and engineering by hundreds of people, you get given a car and are tasked with making it ride, handle and steer the way it needs to, to be a true Lotus.
Increasingly vehicle tuning is supported with computer simulations and modelling but ultimately it comes down to you – the guy in the hot seat – to make judgement calls about spring rates, damper valving, bush stiffness, tyre compound, tyre pressure, rear wing position and countless other settings. And you’re relying on nothing more than what you feel through your hands, through the seat and your ‘inner gyro’. When you get a car fresh from its prototype build it’s just a car, but by the time you’ve finished it has a character of its own, and with a little piece of you in it too. I think that’s what makes every Lotus a Lotus, and the Evija is 100% a Lotus.
Of course, people want to know what it’s like to drive the Evija. From a standing start, that initial force you feel as you’re pushed back into the seat is hugely impressive. It’s what you expect to feel; what you’re not expecting is the push in your stomach as you keep accelerating just as hard. The Evija will hit more than 180mph in nine seconds. A launch start in a Lotus Exige 430 is a pretty savage experience, and the Evija just takes it to another level.
The Evija’s performance through the bends is just as impressive and we’ve stretched its legs extensively already to validate the aerodynamics. That feeling when the steering weights up and the car claws into the tarmac as the aero load builds is a pretty special experience.
I’ve been a Vehicle Dynamics engineer for 10 years, and the chance to join Lotus was not an opportunity I could turn down. Lotus is so closely linked with ride and handling excellence that it’s a privilege to be a part of it. I’ve driven many cars during my career, and I can say the Lotus Evija is like nothing else.
All Lotus vehicles perform well on both road and track. Some are biased more towards road, such as the Elise, and others are biased more towards the track, like the Exige. The Evija’s exceptional dynamic performance means it can only be fully experienced on a track, but it has been designed and engineered to be just as rewarding and engaging on the road.
It’s not just about going fast and let me give you an example of that. A key marker for any Lotus is the ’50-metre test’, where within the first 50 metres of driving any of our cars you can feel the immediacy of the steering response and the connection to the road, the damping that’s perfectly balanced between handling and ride comfort, and a powertrain that responds directly and proportionally to your throttle demand. And all of this should be before you’ve travelled faster than 30mph or above 0.1g acceleration in any direction.
It’s a complicated thing to get right, something that can only be achieved through tuning vehicles ‘the Lotus way’ – to fully understand which part to tweak or adjust to get that extra little something from the car no matter how fast it’s going. It’s being able to deliver that special magic that’s difficult to distill, but easy to recognise when it’s there.”