ELECTRIC LOTUS

The early inspiration for Tesla’s Roadster is finally going electric

A 2011 Lotus, a very distant relation to Tesla’s Roadster.
A 2011 Lotus, a very distant relation to Tesla’s Roadster.
Image: REUTERS/Bogdan Cristel
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The first Tesla was almost a Lotus. Around 2004, the young electric car startup tried to cram an early version of its first Roadster inside the body of a Lotus Elise. Tesla’s team glued together bricks of lithium-ion cells, extended the chassis five inches, and lowered a jury-rigged battery into the spot reserved for the engine, according to Ashlee Vance’s 2015 book on Elon Musk.

But once Tesla began to produce the car in earnest, it was clear it wasn’t going to work. Musk called it “super dumb” that Tesla expected to add electric drivetrain technology to the British carmaker’s chassis and produce the Roadster it needed. Ultimately, the company estimates less than 7% of the first Roadster consisted of Lotus parts. Only the windshield, dashboard, front wishbones, soft-top and rear-view mirrors made it into the production version.

Now, Lotus is reportedly coming full circle. According to the trade publication Autocar, the British sports-car maker (now owned by Chinese firm Geely) is planning to release a $2.5 million supercar that would be its fastest and most expensive car ever produced. The company plans to release the vehicle, code-named Omega, sometime early next decade. If true, it would be one the most expensive electric cars on the road, surpassing today’s supercar contenders, such as the electric Rimac Concept_One priced around $1 million. Lotus did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Lotus’ interest comes at a time when high-performance and custom carmakers are steering toward electrification alongside their mass-market counterparts. Bentley now has a hybrid, and is building its first battery electric car. Jaguar’s electric I-PACE will hit the streets next year. Aston Martin is building an electric sports car, the Rapide E, and offering to convert its classics to all-electric powertrains. VW, Daimler, Volvo, General Motors and others have already committed to electrify most or all of their lineups within the next decade.

Correction: A previous version of this post misstated the brand building the I-PACE. It is Jaguar, not Porsche.