The development of hybrid race and rally cars is a relatively new area of motorsports technology that is bringing particular challenges and opportunities for specialist companies. With its extensive knowledge and experience in hybrid and electric vehicle R&D, Lotus Engineering is one of them.
Now it is to work with Oaktec—specialists in energy-efficient vehicle design—to develop technology that exploits the racetrack performance potential of the gasoline-electric Honda Civic Hybrid.
Lotus will focus on battery and system control technologies to enable maximum racing performance and efficiency to be extracted from the hybrid drivetrain. The collaboration is in partnership with the UK's Energy Efficient Motorsport (EEMS) program and Honda UK.
EEMS is an industry initiative supported by Motorsport Development UK and funded by the British Government’s BERR (Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform) Department and four regional development agencies. Its stated aim is to put energy efficiency at the heart of modern motorsports and to promote the development expertise of the UK motorsports industry. It provides support for a range of projects developing energy efficiency in racing as well as running events to widen knowledge.
"We have been developing the Honda Hybrid system for motorsport since 2004 and achieved a great deal of success in rallies around the UK, including a championship win in 2006 with a Honda Insight in the F1000 Class A Championship," said Oaktec’s Senior Partner, Paul Andrews. "Maximizing racetrack performance from a hybrid drivetrain is a complex technical exercise but one that Lotus Engineering has the experience and expertise to help us deliver. We look forward to seeing our success on the rally tracks replicated on the race circuits."
At Lotus Engineering, Phil Barker, Chief Engineer of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles, added, "Hybrid and electric vehicles are already established on our roads but to make them successful on the racetrack, a number of technical changes have to be employed. Working with Oaktec, we will create a revised electrical specification for more power and a control system that will allow a more aggressive regenerative braking strategy. Lotus Engineering’s work on the Honda Civic Hybrid will prove that you can still get high performance while using green technologies."
Lotus and Oaktec regard the Honda IMA (Integrated Motor Assist) hybrid technology used on the Civic as having significant potential to enhance its power output for racing while retaining high fuel efficiency. The 1.3-L engine drives through a CVT (continuously variable transmission), which enables the car to be driven at constant full power to make the utmost of available performance.
Mike Kimberley, Chief Executive Officer of Group Lotus, said: "Lotus Engineering has an enviable track record in the global automotive industry for the successful delivery of hybrid vehicle programs, applying advanced technologies on the road and now on the racetrack. Our dedicated Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Technologies Group is working on a large number of third-party client projects." Kimberley said that he welcomed the collaboration with Oaktec.
In standard form, the Civic Hybrid’s 1339-cm³ SOHC engine and electric motor combined produce 85 kW—70 kW from the engine and 15 kW from the electric motor. The road car has a top speed of 185 km/h (115 mph) and a 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) time of 12.1 s, and its CO2 figure is 109 g/km.