It looks like a regular Opel (Saturn) Astra, but the car that’s pictured is completely different. This vehicle is Lotus Engineering’s first attempt at creating a hybrid vehicle, and represents the launch of a branch of the British firm dedicated to engineering and developing hybrid and electric vehicles.
Underneath its hood, Lotus Engineering has fitted a small 1.5-liter three-cylinder gasoline engine featuring a turbocharger that’s mated to a mild hybrid drivetrain system. The 12 kW electric motor adds power, but not at the cost of fuel economy, and because it isn’t a full hybrid system that allows the car to run on pure electrical power, it poses a price advantage.
Lotus has also taken a load off of the main engine by switching over the water pump and the fuel pump to items that are purely electrical, a change that benefits the car with 2-percent improved fuel economy.
As importantly, the new power plant puts out greater performance than most entry-level gasoline engines on the market today, at 158 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque. This also betters the performance offered by the 1.8-liter inline-four sold in the North American Astra. At the same time, the engine cuts back on fuel economy and emissions by a significant amount.
By swapping out the four cylinder for a three cylinder, Lotus has made the engine smaller, some 35-percent less complicated, but more importantly about 20-percent lighter.
Lotus Engineering proves a point that many automakers have shown in concepts; that downsizing for fuel economy can be done with giant gains in fuel economy and equally large reductions in emissions. We might see Lotus-derived powertrains soon too, as they’ve officially partnered up with US-based ZAP electric cars.