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Lotus Unveils Concept Extended Range Electric City Car

Lotus CIty Car drivetrain. Click to enlarge.

At the Paris Motor Show, Lotus unveiled five new cars, two evolutions of existing models and a new concept city car. The Lotus City Car concept provides a showcase for Lotus Engineering’s Electrical and Electronic Integration and Efficient Performance competencies, featuring an advanced series hybrid drivetrain with the Lotus Range Extender engine (earlier post).

Equipped with a single-speed transmission, drivetrain provides the vehicle with an all-electric range of 60 km (37 miles) from its 14.8 kWh battery pack to cover the majority of daily journeys operating as a plug-in EV. With the range extender, the city car has a full range of 500 km (311 miles).

The Lotus City Car. Click to enlarge.

Using Range Extender technology allows the vehicle to be specified with a smaller, lighter and less expensive battery pack than a regular EV, Lotus notes.

With a total vehicle weight of less than 1,400 kg (3,086 lbs) and 240 N·m (177 lb-ft) of torque instantly available, the Lotus City Car concept has class-leading acceleration; 0 - 50 km/h (0 -31 mph) in 4.5 seconds and 0 - 100 km/h in 9 seconds, when operating as an EV under battery power. The top speed of the Lotus City Car concept is 170 km/h (106 mph), with a charge-sustaining top speed of 120 km/h (75 mph). This performance is achieved by a drivetrain that returns CO2 emissions of 60 g/km on the ECE-R101 test schedule.

The 1.2-liter, 3-cylinder Lotus Range Extender engine, specifically designed for hybrid vehicle applications, drives a 240 Nm, 54 kW continuous (162 kW peak) generator. The Range Extender engine is designed for flex-fuel operation on ethanol and methanol as well as regular gasoline.



3,086 lbs

Lotus has made light weight cars over the years and this is a key factor in mileage. With new small cars coming to market perhaps people will see this is all the car they need for around town and commutes.

Most people want utility, the one vehicle that can do everything, hence the SUV. If they have a car like this and want to go on a long trip, rent a luxury sedan and put all those miles on that car. Plus, you get to try a different vehicle now and then.


It will be methanol-ready...don't see that very often...


The farm lobby pushed to make FFVs run ethanol for obvious reasons. California had 200 Taurus running M85 in the 1990s, it worked out very well and then we heard nothing about it. This was about the time that GM sold NiMH to Texaco and called back all their EV1s. The 3 big U.S. car makers forgot PNGV and made large SUVs.

Once the farm lobby realizes that they can make methanol with corn stalks and sell the grain, then they may come around. It is inertia, once they get going in a direction they keep going. Then hedge funds double the price of corn and ethanol distillers go broke. We have to quit messing around and get with the program or suffer the consequences.

Nick Lyons

Methanol--meh. High energy density of butanol makes it much more promising, IMHO.


Methanol is easy to make from natural gas right near where it is used. As long as your community has a natural gas main, you can make methanol very close to the fueling stations.


Butanol is awesome because it can be a one for one replacement for gasoline in terms of energy density as well as it seems to cause no damage to existing engines. But it's harder to make and not least so far, costing as much as $3.70/gallon.

Methanol only has half the energy density of gas, but it also cost about 90 cents a gallon so who cares! And it can be American made from natural gas.

We just need to FFV everything and all of these will be options.


Butanol would be good, it is a drop in replacement and if we could make from trash for one dollar per gallon, I would be all for it, but we can not.


You could make methanol from garbage if you had a cheap hydrogen supply. It is wasteful to make it from natural gas as you could use the gas in a straight NGV instead. Methanol tanks would not need to be high pressure just so long as the toxic vapour didn't escape. They will be heavier anyway if they had twice the volume of an equivalent petrol tank.

Note this approach of a PHEV with methanol range extender tanks is another version of the hydrogen highway. Instead of super cold or super high pressure hydrogen in super expensive FCVs it merely modifies currently installed technology.


I think people might put up with less range per tank than have larger tanks. My car gets almost 500 miles on a tank, so I could put up with 250-300 mile range. I would fill up more often, but the fuel would be cheaper. On a mile per dollar basis it might be about the same, but there is NO imported oil required with methanol and we could make right near my city.

Thomas Pedersen

Are we talking about methanol to replace gasoline in a business as usual scenario, or to fuel a range extender engine?

The tediousness of refilling is not something you feel on a road trip, where you mostly want to stop and stretch your legs every 300 km anyway. It's just great to be able to drive around town for weeks without having to refill all the time. And that is exactly what you get with a PHEV like this (as everybody knows by now of course).

I think the range-issue is less important as soon as you can actually go to a gas station and refill in a couple of minutes.

But why methanol? Is it vastly more efficient to make? Is it crazy expensive to upgrade or modify processes to make ethanol or butanol instead? Sometimes it's worth spending a little more (renewable) energy to get the right (non-toxic) product (although gasoline is quite toxic too...).

On topic: I'm surprised the charge-sustaining top speed is only 120 km/h. It seems that 54 kW (72 hp) would propel the car faster than that.

Other than that, isn't this exactly the car people in this forum has been asking for? Great design, good compromise for EV range, great acceleration, nice little RE engine. Oh, but what about the price?!?

Edit: According to the post about the RE engine, it operates between two points; 15 to 35 kW. But the generator is 54 kW continuous and 162 kW peak. What is that about? If we are talking about regenerative breaking, there should be a drive link to the front wheels, which was not mentioned. I'm a little puzzled now...


A methanol-ethanol blend is very easy to make with a catalyst and NG, or the output of a gasifier.. and no need for the energy expensive step of drying the product. It could be a low cost 100% American made fuel. The CO2 emissions implies an mpg of 110.

The toxicity of methanol is overstated by many people.


If we are talking about regenerative breaking, there should be a drive link to the front wheels, which was not mentioned. I'm a little puzzled now...

Regenerative braking is done through the electric motor that powers the wheels, not the generator on the ER-ICE but you are right that regenerative braking should ideally be done through the front wheels because during braking weight transfers foreward.


A methanol-ethanol blend is very easy to make with a catalyst and NG, or the output of a gasifier

It's even easier to just leave the NG alone and combust it in the range extender. Also NG doesn't break down over time which should be considered in an EREV. The more complex liquid fuels sometimes have a half-life, making them unusable if you let them sit in your tank too long - and isn't that the goal of having an EV?


I'm fairly sure methanol via thermochemical methods (not fermentation) can be made from almost any organic matter given extra hydrogen. It's hard to see PHEVs having both a large battery and a large range extender tank. That tank could be a heavy pressure cylinder for NG or a thin walled but bulky tank for methanol. That's a lot of weight and volume to drive around for a quick trip to the supermarket.

Perhaps most cars will end up as streamlined vans to create the extra space. Alternatively if a compact PHEV has enough sustained power a trailer could be towed for interstate trips. The trailer holds the luggage and the extra fuel while the family and the dog squeeze into the car.


"Adsorbed natural gas is the technology that uses a filler material inside the gas canisters that allows it to hold more natural gas at the same pressure or the same amount at a lower pressure. Although most of us are familiar with compressed natural gas (CNG), the cylinder pressures (200-250 bars) involved make some folks a little nervous, even though the cylinders are very safe. Fill that cylinder with the right material and you can lower the pressure (30-70 bars) and still have the same amount of natural gas. Even better, with the lower pressures involved, you can use other shapes besides cylinders which obviously makes fitting them into odd places a lot easier."


So, in short, if they're making natural gas powered motorcycles and scooters;
your worries about large, heavy pressure cylinders are all for naught.


ANG is good, but you add the weight of the activated carbon in the tank. This may not be much of a problem with small tanks that you replace in scooters, but you could have several tanks that you fill in place on a car each weighing more than 200 pounds empty.

The tank weighs less due to lower pressure, but weighs more because of the carbon. The natural gas has to have the impurities removed or it reduces the carbon capacity to store and release gas. Most of the natural gas in U.S. pipelines contains sulfur, propane and other substance that much be removed before compression.


It seems to me that 14.8 kWh is a large battery for 60km range? By my calculations, asuming a 65% usuable battery we should be looking at something in the order of 10 kWh. Perhaps they need the extra size for the peak power?


If I recall reading the link given by ai vin it said that 3600 psi (245 bar) compression could use up to 35% of the energy in the gas that goes into the cylinder. Maybe motorists could get a low pressure fill for say 100km range and a high pressure fill for 250km range. Remember what happened to the shark in Jaws and scuba tanks are usually less than 3000 psi. Also when you run out of hydrocarbon fuel on the highway it would be easier to hitch into town and get a can of methanol.

I don't see compact PHEVs having both a big heavy battery and a big heavy fuel tank.


Actually Doug a well designed battery should be 80% usable without damage.


what is the life of a 245 bar CNG tank?.. will it have to pass inspection every year?.. no thanks!, give me a conventional thin gage steel tank for my alcohol fuel.. and I dont care about the energy density.

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