The Eco Elise project promotes a different perspective on "green", one which does not revolve solely around tailpipe CO2. This holistic approach is in keeping with the progressive Lotus culture, driving Lotus to become the world's green automotive consultancy.
Sustainable materials, hemp, eco wool and sisal have been developed for body panels and trim and, combined with hi-tech water-based paint solutions, showcase new and affordable green technologies. The green credentials of the technology on show in the Eco Elise have been analyzed throughout the lifecycle of the car.
A green gear change display has been integrated into the dashboard to promote greener driving, as well as a weight reduction program to illustrate the holistic approach taken. The energy expended to manufacture the car has been evaluated, working to the 3R's - Reduce, Re-use and Recycle.
In keeping with the company's existing "performance through light weight" philosophy, the Eco Elise weighs 70.5 lb less than the standard Elise S, which means the efficient Elise S engine in the Eco Elise will give better fuel economy figures and performance.
Dramatic improvements to the culture and operations at Lotus have rewarded the company with staggering reductions in energy (electricity -14%, natural gas -30%) and water (-11%) consumed across the company's Hethel, England headquarters in 2007, compared to 2006. These advances have coincided with improvements in recycling, with 57% of waste product now recycled.
The new green materials sourced for this car have been studied to ensure each technology reduces the environmental impact of the vehicle. The life of the components has been analyzed; during the production stage, in-use and at the end of the vehicle's life. The technology aims to offer lower emissions of both solvents and CO2 in the lifecycle of the vehicle, with reductions in energy consumed during manufacture.
The renewable materials incorporated into the project include hemp, eco wool and sisal to provide natural, biodegradable engineering materials. Cleaner manufacturing processes have been sought, utilizing the latest water-based paint technology. Using this paint system saves energy and reduces emissions of solvents from the paint shop. Solar panels have been set into the car's hemp hardtop to help power the electrical systems and give a means of renewable energy generation.
With the use of locally farmed hemp, the carbon miles to produce the Eco Elise are reduced, in keeping with the holistic approach to this vehicle. The Eco Elise puts an emphasis on efficient driving techniques by using an "economy" gear change display to improve fuel efficiency and promote greener driving. The car has undergone a weight reduction program to add a little extra lightness, assisting in more economical, greener driving.
Sustainable hemp fabrics have been used as the primary constituent in the high quality "A" class composite body panels and spoiler. The renewable hemp has exceptional material properties that make for a very strong fiber. Historically, hemp has been used in the manufacture of rope, illustrating the great strength of the material.
The hemp fibers have also been used in the manufacture of the lightweight Lotus-designed seats. An additional benefit of hemp is that it is a natural resource that requires relatively low energy to manufacture. It also absorbs CO2 while growing as a plant through natural photosynthesis. The hemp material is used with a polyester resin to form a hybrid composite. However, it is hoped that a fully recyclable composite resin will be viable in the near future.
The Eco Elise seats are upholstered in a durable yet biodegradable woolen fabric that has been given the `EU Flower' certificate to exemplify its environmental credentials. This new material is ethically produced and does not use any dyes or harmful processing. In fact, the color is created from the selection of sheep breeds used to produce the wool for the yarn, which increases the natural feel of the wool and reduces the processing of the cloth.
Sisal is a renewable crop that, like hemp, is used for its strong properties. Sisal has been used for the carpets in the Eco Elise, as it is a tough, abrasion-resistant material.
While improving the green credentials of the Lotus production facilities, the Lotus Paint Facility, in partnership with Du Pont, has developed a totally water-based paint system. This solution includes primer, color coat and lacquer, and it is the first time that it has been possible to hand spray a water based "A" class production paint finish.
In using this progressive water based technology, Lotus is able to achieve impressive savings in energy consumption due to the low cure temperature this paint requires. An additional benefit is the reduction in emissions of solvents, all of which contribute to substantial cost savings for Lotus.
The hemp hardtop on the Eco Elise has two flexible solar panels neatly embedded in the roof, contributing power to the electrical systems and saving energy that would be drained from the engine. The solar panels have been integrated into the hard top to illustrate the feasibility of applying this technology. The application shows the installation of solar panels into a composite "A" class panel with a double curvature. Using this technology on a greater number of panels would make it possible to provide more power, especially on a larger vehicle.
The hemp fibers have been farmed in East Anglia (an area close to Lotus), thus reducing the carbon miles incurred in the production of this Elise. Lotus Manufacturing has component manufacturing facilities and a paint facility at its headquarters in Hethel, Norfolk, with another manufacturing site a short distance away in Norwich. The company operates a carefully managed logistics system operating between sites to improve efficiency, reduce costs and carbon miles.
Lotus cars have red shift lights to help drivers extract the maximum performance from the engine. However, the Eco Elise has software developed to assist drivers maximize the fuel efficiency of the engine. A green gearshift display has been integrated into the instrument panel to ensure that gears are changed at the optimum point to reduce emissions and save fuel.
"Performance through light weight" is synonymous with Lotus. The reduction in mass improves the handling and braking performance and also reduces the effort required to accelerate the car. The weight reduction philosophy has even extended to the audio system, with an exceptionally lightweight stereo and speaker system from Alpine that saved 3.3 lb. The system uses MP3/ iPod technology in a sleek modern design.
The Eco Elise uses special lightweight wheels that reduce the unsprung mass and contribute a weight saving of approximately 34.8 lb over the already light Elise wheels. The weight saving program for the Eco Elise has resulted in a total saving of around 70.5 lb over the feather light Elise S, which reduces the fuel required to drive the car.
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