- Consultancy division’s Technical Services capability helping deliver new track bike for Paris Olympics 2024
- Expertise from automotive projects used to develop solutions in wider transport and personal mobility sector
- Highly experienced Lotus Design team – based at the upgraded Hethel site – a key part of Technical Services
- Lotus Engineering’s other core competencies are Platforms, Control Systems and Dynamics
Lotus has announced its golden collaboration with British Cycling will continue, with the development of a new track bike for Team GB riders to use at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. The division of the business which delivers this and other consultancy work is Lotus Engineering, internationally recognised for its long-standing contribution to ground-breaking design, collaborative advanced engineering and innovative product development for OEMs, suppliers and other businesses.
The new bike’s development is the focus of the final chapter of the Lotus Engineering: The Innovators series, which turns the spotlight on the fourth of its core portfolio pillars – the Technical Services it offers to clients. These include intelligent design, product concept, attribute development and advanced materials, all of which are integral to the British Cycling project.
Mark Stringer, Commercial Director, Lotus Engineering, explained: “Technical Services is about what we can supply throughout the entire product development process. We take the core principals we have gained from automotive development, where we have a global pedigree, to develop solutions across the wider mass transportation and personal mobility sectors.”
The three other pillars covered previously in this series are Platforms, Control Systems and Dynamics.
The partnership with British Cycling is just one example of Lotus Engineering’s collaborations, most of which remain confidential at clients’ request. The consultancy’s involvement with two-wheelers has already included co-development of the track bike for the Tokyo Olympics 2020, which eventually took place in 2021 due to Covid-19. However, it stretches back to the early Nineties and the Lotus Type 108 – the LotusSport Pursuit Bicycle – a revolutionary concept that showcased a ground-breaking monocoque design, advanced carbon composite construction, and, with its aerofoil cross-section, a pioneering approach to aerodynamics.
Just like cars, bikes can benefit from the application of mechanical efficiency and the Type 108 helped British rider Chris Boardman rewrite the track cycling history books and win gold at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona. Its success sparked the genesis of the Lotus Type 110, a time trial bike boasting many of the same innovations. Again, the cycling world had seen nothing like it and Boardman won the Prologue time trial in the 1994 Tour de France.
Then, as now, development work is focused on core Lotus values – a pioneering approach to light-weighting, advanced materials and optimised aerodynamics. So what has changed in the three decades since the Type 108? Certainly not the physics, but the understanding of the science had moved on. As Richard Hill, Chief Aerodynamicist for Lotus, commented: “Back then, it was simply about developing an aerodynamic bike that would go fast. But really there are two separate elements – the bike and the rider – which come together as one to move through the air. That was the approach we took with the Tokyo bike and is continuing for Paris 2024.”
Beyond the technical, Lotus Engineering regularly calls on the Lotus Design team as an integral part of its service offering. The latter – based at Hethel, Norfolk, since it was established in 1985 – has developed several other two-wheeled projects including motorcycles and scooters.
Barney Hatt, Head of Advance and Consultancy Design, who has previously worked on client programmes such as the Tesla Roadster, commented: “Our objective is to design compelling and commercially successful world-class products that are beautiful, visually innovative and that reflect the client’s core values, meet the budget targets and satisfy the end user’s functional requirements.”
During more than three decades of work, Russell Carr, Director of Design at Lotus, has been involved in numerous consultancy projects: He added: “We’re able to apply the experience we have gained in automotive to other forms of mobility. Whilst aesthetics is crucial to the success of a product, we are co-located with our renowned engineering team, meaning we work hand-in-glove to strike the perfect balance of form and function which is integral to product design with engineering integrity.”
The design studio at Hethel is a contemporary and purpose-built facility which, like other areas on site, has received considerable investment in recent years. The Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality (VR/AR) suite and 3D printing equipment is state-of-the-art, as is the milling studio, which has been upgraded to a 12-metre bed plate, plus 2 x five-axis milling capability with Kolb Studioline M masts and bespoke extraction system. Photometric scanning fully supports the design process with large format and portable optical scanners.
Hethel is also home to three secure studios with integrated surface plates and workspace for designers, digital modellers and studio engineers. A secure presentation room with a four-metre screen is also part of the facilities.
Russell explained: “The implementation of these upgrades at Hethel has fundamentally changed how we work and how we communicate with clients. The VR/AR suite and online data reviews give us an increased global reach, offering the client the opportunity to review 3D digital models from anywhere in the world, either on screen or through immersive headsets.”
While the artisan skill of manually sculpting designs in clay is still very much within Lotus Design’s capability and process, it is enhanced by the automated milling of models and 3D printing of components using the very same data that is reviewed in the virtual world.
“This seamless interaction of multiple mediums allows for more iterations and more life-like representations, which gives greater reassurance to the client and ultimately facilitates the best possible outcome.”