Currently reading: Lotus Elise successor to arrive in 2027 at £75,000
Electric sports car – which will also replace the Emira – to have mid-engined-style platform

The electric successor to the Lotus Elise – due to go on sale in 2027 at around £75,000 – will be an “essential” part of the Lotus line-up, according to company bosses.

Codenamed Type 135, the new two-seat sports car will replace the Emira, the firm’s final combustion-engined car.

The new BEV will be developed and built in Hethel, Norfolk, and will be the fourth and final model of Lotus’s Vision80 project, following the Eletre large SUV, Emeya saloon and forthcoming Type 134 D-segment SUV.

Mike Johnstone, the Lotus Group’s chief commercial officer, told Autocar that meeting the Type 135's target price was “key”.

He said: “It’s something that’s not a big step on from where we are at the moment, but we recognised that there’s going to be a lot of new technology. That’s an engineering challenge: it’s where we need to get to in the market. So our teams will need to work fastidiously to make sure we can get the price to that level.”

While the Type 135 will be a relatively small-volume car (Lotus is aiming for annual sales of 10,000-15,000, compared with 50,000 for the Eletre and 90,000 for the Type 134), Johnstone said it's still a crucial model for the brand.

Lotus Type 134 (left) and Type 135 (right) silhouettes

“We call it the bullseye,” he said. “At the very centre [of the brand] always has to be that lightweight sports car. That gives you the credibility to build other products that have sporty characteristics.

"We’re not naive enough to say that the Eletre is going to feel like an Elise. It won’t. But it has a lightweight feeling, and we think it’s the best-handling SUV you can drive.

“We need the bullseye of the brand, which has to be that two-seat sports car. Otherwise we’re just a brand with a Lotus badge. The sports car is an essential part of our future.”

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Lotus had previously been developing a bespoke electric sports car platform in collaboration with Alpine, the Renault Group’s performance brand, but the two companies split last year.

However, Lotus chiefs insist that this hasn't slowed development of the Type 135.

Lotus has put a major focus for its future growth on filling the ‘white space’ between what it sees as established performance brands and EV start-ups by emphasising both its 76-year-history and the advanced technology in its cars.

Lotus Type 135 render by Autocar

Ben Payne, the Lotus Group’s design chief, added that while the Type 135 would use a bespoke platform and be developed and built in Hethel and not Wuhan, China, with the other Lotus EVs, it would take technology learnings from them.

He said: “There’s a lot of learning that carries across, and as a sports car, it will have a lot more technology embedded in it than we’ve seen before from Lotus. The technology isn’t just about autonomous driving; it’s about safety features and answering customer expectations [too].

“You can expect that car to be a properly connected product. Will it have exactly the same technology as the other products? No, because that’s not appropriate to the sports car segment. It’s a different offer. But you will see really strong synergies.”

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Lotus Type 135: Architecture and specifications

Lotus LEVA architecture

The Type 135 will be built around the dedicated Project LEVA (Lightweight Electric Vehicle Architecture) structure that was set to also underpin the Alpine A110 successor.

The new E-Sports platform, which incorportates LEVA, will give it a mid-engined-style layout, most likely with the battery pack stacked in the middle of the car, rather than under the floor, as is usual for EVs. That will allow the Porsche Boxster rival to sit lower and ensure weight distribution is more in keeping with its remit. 

The E-Sports platform has yet to be revealed in its entirety, but the LEVA element is said to be 37% lighter than the equivalent structure used by the combustion-engined Emira sports car.

It has been designed from the ground up to compensate for the added weight of an electric powertrain and with a view to replicating the typical dynamic traits of previous Lotus models.

The batteries can either be stacked vertically behind the seats, in a layout reminiscent of a conventional mid-engined format, or arranged under the floor in longer-wheelbase cars with rear seats.

The LEVA unit will be mated to a bulkhead and front end completely unrelated to those used by the Emira, but managing director Matt Windle previously said he was keen for Lotus’s trademark dynamic agility to be carried over to the new models.

“It’s our DNA: dynamics, aerodynamics, lightweighting – that’s what we do on all our products,” Windle told Autocar at the LEVA's unveiling. “We still want these to be Lotus products. They are going to have a different propulsion system but that system comes with benefits as well: instant torque, easier cooling and better packaging, so the first sports car [the Type 135] will have a lot of storage and packaging benefits as well.”

The E-Sports architecture will host single- and twin-motor powertrains ranging in output from 469bhp to 872bhp. This means the entry-level sports car will pack nearly double the power of even the most powerful iteration of the Elise, and more powerful versions could fill the gap left by the more track-focused Exige.

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The E-Sports platform will accommodate rear- and four-wheel-drive powertrains from the off, although the conceptual applications previewed so far by Lotus all use a rear-mounted drive system. Windle told Autocar that Lotus does not “want to close off the possibility” of offering a similar torque- vectoring set-up to that found in the top-rung Evija, which will continue to serve as the brand’s halo model in the coming years in both a marketing and engineering sense. As a result, some of the Evija’s defining features will make their way into more mainstream Lotus sports cars.

One early hint is that the EV will be made as aero-efficient as possible with aerodynamic aids “running through the car”, in the vein of the Evija’s prominent Venturi tunnels, thereby taking advantage of the more compact nature of an EV drivetrain. However, the Type 135 will be far more accessible than the hypercar. Windle emphasised Lotus’s commitment to affordable performance and said “efficiencies” throughout the Geely group, which also includes Volvo, Polestar, Lynk&Co and LEVC, will allow Hethel to use components and systems from other brands to keep development and retail costs down.

Lotus Evija powersliding – front

The overarching priority for the Type 135 is to stay true to the company’s long-held reputation for lightweight, accessible performance. Windle said the stacked battery arrangement used for the Type 135 gives “the yaw control and stability that we’re used to setting cars up around” while enabling a “sports car feel”. Notably, Lotus used this arrangement for the first-generation Tesla Roadster, which had a wheelbase only 50mm longer than that of the Elise, on which it was loosely based.

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This set-up also allows the driver to sit as close to the ground as possible, like in a petrol-engined Lotus sports car, whereas the underfloor batteries used in larger E-Sports-based cars will raise the seat height – and vehicle profile – by some 100mm.

But Lotus sports cars won’t sacrifice day-to-day usability in their pursuit of dynamic superiority. The smallest battery fitted to this platform will be a 66.4kWh unit, which could feasibly offer a range of around 300 miles in a lightweight, low-slung two-seater. The larger, 99.6kWh battery – also available in ‘slab’ or ‘chest’ format – could bump up the range to nearer 450 miles.

The architecture will also be equipped with 800V charging hardware to make it compatible with the fastest chargers on the market. 

Windle was tight-lipped on the specifics of the other cars that will use the E-Sports architecture but emphasised that Lotus UK “should not be a single-model producer” and will build a line-up of distinct sporting models “in multiple segments in the market range”.

Not every retired model will necessarily be replaced, but the capacity for the platform to accommodate a rear-driven four-seater with a wheelbase of 2650mm paves the way for an electric successor to the Evora, too.

Additional reporting by Felix Page

James Attwood

James Attwood, digital editor
Title: Acting magazine editor

James is Autocar's acting magazine editor. Having served in that role since June 2023, he is in charge of the day-to-day running of the world's oldest car magazine, and regularly interviews some of the biggest names in the industry to secure news and features, such as his world exclusive look into production of Volkswagen currywurst. Really.

Before first joining Autocar in 2017, James spent more than a decade in motorsport journalist, working on Autosport, autosport.com, F1 Racing and Motorsport News, covering everything from club rallying to top-level international events. He also spent 18 months running Move Electric, Haymarket's e-mobility title, where he developed knowledge of the e-bike and e-scooter markets. 

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Nick L 31 January 2024

There are a few misconceptions in the comments.  An Emira V6 First Edition manual is just over £90k on the road, the four-pot a bit less.  The "standard" (ie not First Edition) models have been promised since launch but the date from which you can order them has been pushed back several times and, when (and if) the order books do open, the price will be significantly more than that suggested at launch (as, indeed, the First Edition has been subject to two or three price rises since the order books opened).  There's still a significant waiting time for First Edition Emiras (which, I suspect, is one reason why orders still haven't opened for the standard spec cars).  I ordered a V6 manual First Edition in March 2023, at which time Lotus said the wait was 60 weeks but the dealer thought more like 18 months; my most recent update from Lotus gave a build date of Quarter1 of 2024, but I'm not holding my breath.

The Emira is, strictly speaking, a successor to the Evora - but a huge leap forward in terms perceived (and, hopefully, actual) quality and design.  Put the two side by side and jump from one to the other and they feel like they're from different eras.  I regard it more as a spiritual successor to the Esprit.

Nickktod 31 January 2024

For heavens sake halve the size of the battery to knock off 250kg and £25k - at least as an entry level option. Nobody wants an Elise that weighs 1.5 tonnes, nobody needs an Elise that has 300 miles range, and nobody will buy an Elise that costs £75k. 

ianp55 30 January 2024

Well at least it's a British built sports car unlike the  Eletre and Type 134 which are neither, it'll be interesting  to see how these new types of Lotus fare in the market place,their sales projections are certainly ambitious  and it will be very interesting to see how actual sales pan out