Lotus' latest EV weighs a fraction of the Elise and costs 'just' $25K
Yes, it's a bike. And yes, it's an exorbitantly expensive Lotus ebike, not a cheap Lotus car. But the all-new Lotus Type 136 is so loaded with singular heritage and cutting-edge tech that it could be to cyclists what the great Esprit or Exige were to drivers. An homage to the brand's brief but impressive Olympic medaling glory, the Type 136 is based on the sleekest ebike drive available today. The bike has been thinned and sharpened for slippery aerodynamics and is about as light and feathery as an electrified bicycle can be, teasing enough next-level performance to convince wealthy bicycle fanatics to stomach its five-figure price tag.
Lotus is, of course, a well-established expert when it comes to creating some of the world's lightest roadsters and coupes for track and highway. It's a less well-known entity in lightweight, aero bicycle circles, but it does have some past credentials that rise to the highest echelons of competitive cycling.
It was the early 90s, and the UCI had just begun to allow monocoque frames. One boundary-pushing monocoque design, developed by independent British bike builder Mike Burrows, caught Lotus' eye, convincing its engineering arm to play bike maker. The team refined the design with aerodynamic strategies honed on the automotive side and in the wind tunnel, taking the project from a fanciful "what if?" chat to a competition-ready bicycle in a matter of six months.
What resulted was an absolutely wild composite-monocoque machine meant to slither quietly through wind with help from an aerofoil-inspired frame, single-legged fork, single rear stay, and a set of long, antler-like handlebars encouraging a more prone and tucked rider position. The bike performed as off-the-charts as it looked, and with cyclist Chris Boardman in the saddle, immediately took Olympic gold at the men's 4,000-m individual pursuit event at the 1992 Barcelona games. It was Great Britain's first cycling medal in over 70 years.
The Type 108 did lead to a limited number of Type 110 road-going bicycles, also ridden to great heights by Boardman, and Lotus was happy to drop its mic and exit competitive cycling for a quarter-century. It would go on to claim being the only automaker to add helping its nation win an Olympic gold to an impressive car racing resume of Formula 1, Indy 500, Le Mans 24 Hour, Bathurst 12 Hour, World Rally Championship, GT and saloon car racing victories.
The all-new Type 136 sees Lotus break from competition bicycles in order to meld its illustrious cycling history with its newer corporate direction as a purveyor of some of the world's highest-performing EVs. It bases the bike around the highly impressive 2.6-lb (1.2-kg) Watt Assist Pro e-drive from Monégasques company HPS. Lotus doesn't merely paint the HPS Domestique its own colors, however, integrating the Watt Assist Pro into its own frame design.
The Type 136 isn't as alien a creation as the 108, but it's definitely distinctive, a mass of carefully contoured and lightly twisted carbon fiber that results in a 21.6-lb (9.8-kg) total bike weight lower than virtually any other ebike besides HPS' own 18.7-lb (8.5-kg) Domestique. The V-shaped handlebars, blade-like fork legs and vaulted chain stays exemplify the same thoughtful approach to air-slicing aerodynamics that made the Type 108 a medal winner, icon and museum piece.
The Watt Assist Pro system flips the script compared to other lightweight e-drives. Instead of a frame-integrated battery and visible motor, the motor hides inside the frame around the bottom bracket, while the battery takes on the form of a classic water bottle. With a capacity of 193 Wh, that battery offers up to three hours of pedal assistance per charge.
Those looking to be the first in the world to plant feet on the pedals of their very own Type 136 will have to dig the deepest into their bank account. Lotus will offer a limited production run of first editions, each offered at a price of £20,000/€25,000 (roughly US$25,500). Those models will include a full Campagnolo Super Record Wireless groupset, Campagnolo Bora Ultra WTO 60 wheels and Black Gold paint. Once those 136 first editions are sold, the £15,199/€17,950 base price of the standard Type 136 with SRAM drivetrain should feel like a closeout deal when that bike goes into production next year.
Lotus unveiled the Type 136 at a VIP event at its London brand store this week and is showing it at the Rouleur Live bicycle exhibition that kicked off on Thursday and runs through Saturday. It throws the new bike into some high-mountain drama in the minute-long clip below.