While the Morgan LIFECar may have been proudly on display at the 78th Geneva Motor Show demonstrating its slick hydrogen technology and sleek style, Lotus Engineering also unveiled an ingenious piece of vehicle craft at the show and impressed onlookers with its latest piece of automotive development – a cool car that runs on atmospheric CO2.
Based on the company’s latest research work, the Lotus Exige 270E Tri-fuel is the most powerful road version yet of the Exige and runs on any mixture of gasoline, bio-ethanol and methanol, a sign of Lotus’ latest development towards carbon neutral road transport.
Yet here’s the incredible part. Emerging and advanced technologies allow alcohol-based fuels such as methanol to be made synthetically from CO2 and hydrogen extracted from the atmosphere. This ensures that the Exige 270E Tri-fuel is not only a green car but also, ultimately a 100% environmentally-neutral vehicle that runs on the traffic's CO2 emissions.
According to the latest projections, the technology will be available for introduction in four to five years. The only problem is that the supply infrastructure investment from governments and fuel companies could take 15 to 20 years.
An alcohol-based fuel derived renewably from atmospheric CO2 would allow society to transfer relatively easily to sustainable, carbon-neutral internal combustion. Lotus Engineering is researching the use of sustainable synthetic alcohols as potential future fuels, with technology available from Lotus for introduction in 4-5 years and the Exige 270E Tri-fuel as part of the manufacturer’s research to understand the complex combustion process involved in running on mixtures of alcohol fuels and gasoline.
Mike Kimberley, Chief Executive Officer of Group Lotus plc, explains the thinking behind the creative breakthrough, “At present, the motor industry is seeking a route to reduce CO2 emissions just at the tailpipe; this focus is far too narrow. A sustainable alcohol such as synthetic methanol has the potential to reduce the overall CO2 footprint of internal combustion vehicles towards zero. Produced through CO2 recovered from the atmosphere and given a tax incentive, it immediately becomes a green, cheap and more desirable fuel.”
Lotus Engineering’s Lotus Exige 270E Tri-fuel technology demonstrator illustrates how easy it is for synthetic methanol to be embraced over time as a future fuel for road transport and doesn’t lose Lotus’ typically racey edge in the process either. The Exige 270E Tri-fuel is the most powerful road version yet of the Exige, capable of 0-60 mph in just 3.88 seconds, a top speed of 158 mph and boasting around 270 horsepower.
This innovative clean machine, with its supercharged 2ZZ-GE VVTL-i engine, could just be the forefather of a new generation of conventionally driven cars that have the potential to be environmentally-neutral.