British sports car maker has announced that they will be developing a new range of low-emissions vehicles in conjunction with the British Government. What kind of vehicles you ask? Perhaps a hybrid Exige S 240 to shuttle around visiting dignitaries? Or maybe some Lotus-tuned suspension for Liz's biofuel powered horse-drawn state carriage? Nope, instead Lotus Engineering will be working on the development of fuel cell-powered London Taxis and petrol-electric hybrid limousines.
The taxi project will see Lotus developing and testing the first of the next generation of London cab, with the long term goal being the introduction of a sizable fleet of zero-emission taxis for London by 2012, with other cities receiving similar fleets by 2014. The elimination of carbon-emitting taxis from London's roads should no doubt prove a boon for the capital, particularly as a significant proportion of these taxis run on diesel. Not only should it result in an improvement in air quality, but the widespread adoption of these hydrogen powered vehicles should also be a catalyst for the gradual introduction of hydrogen storage and refuelling infrastructure into the city - an important prerequisite for any large-scale use of hydrogen by the general public.
The limousine project involves converting an XJ Jaguar over to petrol-electric hybrid power, with the goal being a stately sedan that can travel for 100km and emit no more than 120g of carbon dioxide. To give you an idea of just how ambitious that target is, a Smart Fortwo emits 116g of CO2 in the same distance. A lofty target indeed.
Lotus will rip out the XJ's entire petrol-based powerplant and conventional automatic transmission and replace them with an electric drive motor, small battery pack and a small "Auxiliary Power Unit" to supply power during cruising and when the battery is depleted. We're guessing the APU is simply PR-speak for "petrol engine", but you never know with those crazy Lotus boffins. I'm sure you've all seen the Lotus Esprit that turned into a freakin' submarine in The Spy Who Loved Me. Now THAT was a hybrid.
Anyway, kudos to Lotus for not only giving us some of the most awesome apex-clippers in history, but for also doing their bit to make the world a cleaner place. Now all we need is a fuel cell-powered Exige for some real guilt-free motoring.