GRANT Shapps said so. That’s why I’ve started saving up now, because clearly the right thing to do for this country is to buy a Lotus Elise.
I watched his government press conference the other day and he was very clear about it – if you must go somewhere, and you can’t do it by walking or riding a bicycle, it’s cars all the way. Preferably one that ties in with the Transport Secretary’s net zero ambitions. So, I cooed with delight when the very same day Lotus announced its latest tie-up. Not with Ford, General Motors or Toyota – its preferred partners of choice over the past few decades – but with the chaps who run British Gas.
Obviously I love the idea of a British Gas-liveried Volkswagen Caddy van rocking up on your driveway, the bloke inside fixing your boiler, and then it uses its Lotus-tuned suspension to out-handle everything and arrive at the next job five minutes earlier than planned – but that’s not what the new gig’s about. No, it’s all because Norfolk’s favourite sports carmaker is planning to go net zero emissions in just eight years’ time. British Gas (sorry, Centrica) handles all the hardware and infrastructure, leaving Lotus to focus on what it’s good at.
Flyweight funsters that revel in the amount of feedback they pummel at your grey matter through the steering and suspension, as they slice through corners with the delicacy of a surgeon’s scalpel. Lotus has been around for 72 years now and I can’t think of a single bad car that it’s made; uncomfortable and unforgiving, definitely, but never unimpressive. Not even the 2006 Europa S, for all its misapprehensions that a bigger Elise with thicker carpets could topple a Porsche Cayman. It failed miserably, but it was still a good Lotus.
Chances are its next cars are going to follow the Evija supercar and go all-electric, and if I want anyone to make zero emissions cars genuinely appetising, it’s Lotus. Electric propulsion might be heavier, but all the oomph arrives in an instant – no messing around with gears here – and you can spread the weight of the batteries around, to fine-tune the balance.
The Evija is a supercar, with its 130 buyers being asked to stump up £2million each, but if Lotus learns from it the trade-off for mere mortals is likely going to be a next-generation Elise that goes like stink, out-corners everything for miles around and can go for 200 miles at a time while keeping the Transport Secretary happy. The trick for Lotus is keeping it simple, lightweight and cheap – but this is the company that came up with the Elan and Esprit, of course. If it needs British Gas to make it happen, then bring it on.
So that’s something to look forward to during lockdown – in the not-too-distant future Lotus is going to be making mid-engined sports cars that’ll entertain you for hours and keep your conscience clean.
Obviously, I’d use my Elise to go to work every day, preferably on a commute composed entirely of twisty country roads. It’s fine – Grant Shapps said so!
David Simister is the editor of Classic Car Weekly