Lotus Exige

This is Lotus’s Exige 265E, an eco-rocket that runs on anything from pure ethyl alcohol – bioethanol – to conventional petrol

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

Bio-fuels are still in their infancy, but this advanced Lotus proves exactly what drivers can expect from them in the future. The fact that the 265E can run on petrol means owners needn’t be limited by the current lack of filling stations selling E85. And the special Exige proves going green does not have to come at the expense of performance.

It doesn’t have the looks to match the amazing Morgan AeroMax, but here’s another piece of British engineering that’s breaking new ground for performance cars... And this time, it’s environmentally friendly!

This is Lotus’s Exige 265E, an eco-rocket that runs on anything from pure ethyl alcohol – bioethanol – to conventional petrol. For our first drive, the car was filled with E85 bio-petrol – a mix of petrol and ethanol that offers the best blend of performance and economy.

As one Lotus engineer told us, “it’s saving the planet at some speed”. And the new car’s impressive potential certainly proves it. Where the Exige S on which it is based covers 0-62mph in a brisk 4.3 seconds, the 265E completes the bench­mark sprint in only 3.88 seconds when using ethanol. That ensures it’s Lotus’ quickest-ever road car.

But if you want to see what makes it so quick, you’ll have to look closely at the science behind the firm’s claims. Badges aside, there is nothing to tell the green car apart from the standard Exige on the outside.

That’s because the company has focused on how the energy-laden fuel is supplied in conjunction with the supercharger. On a majority petrol mixture, performance is only slightly better than that of the 218bhp Exige S. However, once ethanol makes up 70 per cent of the fuel cocktail, power jumps to 264bhp. That’s because ethanol carries its own oxygen, which burns with the air in the atmosphere to deli­ver a more ferocious explosion in the combustion chamber.

And because each litre of fuel carries this extra power, less is needed for cruising. Maintaining 70mph, for example, uses less fuel than before.

The other environmental benefits are that bioethanol is a largely renew­able resource that can be reformed from the local crops – sugar beet works very well. It burns more completely and efficiently, emitting less CO2 than petrol. A further plus is the promise of tax breaks for bioethanol vehicles in the future. In addition, supermarket chain Morrisons is getting in on the act, with E85 bioethanol pumps scheduled to be installed at more of its filling stations over the coming months. If the alternative fuel takes off, we had better get used to some very mean, green Lotuses.

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