'Green' contracts won by Lotus

Lotus yesterday won two government contracts to help create the greener and more fuel efficient cars of the future.The Norfolk-based car maker and engineering firm will help develop zero-emission London taxi cabs by 2012 and create a greener executive car as part of a consortium including Jaguar.

Lotus yesterday won two government contracts to help create the greener and more fuel efficient cars of the future.

The Norfolk-based car maker and engineering firm will help develop zero-emission London taxi cabs by 2012 and create a greener executive car as part of a consortium including Jaguar.

The announcement follows this week's record oil price of $140 a barrel - which translates to record prices for petrol and diesel at garage forecourts in the UK and around the world.

Group Lotus chief executive Mike Kimberley said the company's expertise in producing lightweight, hybrid, electric and fuel efficient vehicles could provide green and “guilt free performance motoring” - adding that Lotus's engineering consultancy was in high demand.


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“There is a world-wide drive to reduce carbon dioxide emission levels and this is something to which we are dedicated, for both our Lotus cars and our global engineering clients,” he said.

Mr Kimberley also revealed that Lotus is looking to recruit 130 engineers worldwide, the majority for the engineering consultancy side of the business.

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Between 35 and 45 of the engineers would be based at Lotus HQ at Hethel.

The company is also set to step up production of the 100pc electric roadster it makes for Tesla, with the number of cars rolling off the Hethel production line expected to increase from five a week to 40 a week by the end of the year.

But yesterday's announcement by the government's technology strategy board will see Lotus Engineering work with Intelligent Energy, LTI and TRW Conekt on developing a commercial fleet of zero-emission taxis for London by 2012 and other cities by 2014.

The second project, called Limo Green, is a collaboration between Lotus, Jaguar, MIRA and Caparo Vehicle Technologies, and aims to demonstrate that a large executive saloon can be built that produces less than 120 g/km emissions - low enough to qualify for the £35 road tax band and about half the emissions of the typical executive saloon.

Lotus Engineering will design and build a number of prototype auxiliary power units and provide technical support for installation into the vehicle.

The two projects are part of the government's £23m investment in 16 low carbon initiatives.

But announcing the recruitment drive, Mr Kimberley he had agreed with founder Colin Chapman in the late 1970s that developing an engineering consultancy business as well as manufacturing was key to "sustainable profits and the ability to reinvest in the company".

"The answer is that Lotus is a high technology company where cars are the flagship of the brand - that's our policy and philosophy," Mr Kimberley said.

Last year Group Lotus worked on more than 300 projects for 137 clients around the world.

"When we look at the global consultancy business, we are talking about growth this year of about 38pc - that is an enormous increase in one year," he said.

" To do that, you need the engineers, designers and technicians to do the work.

"We require electronics people and calibration people, for example, because we are doing a lot of work on hybrid and electric vehicles. We need more of those highly skilled engineers and we need them yesterday.

"In America we need more engineers for our expansion there in vehicle and aircraft technologies. In Asia, in Lotus Engineering Malaysia and Lotus Engineering China, we have guys working 80 hours a week. We are looking to set up an operation in India as well.

"What we are looking at is innovative R&D for Hethel."

Lotus employs about 1150 people at Hethel, a further 120 in Asia and about 90 in the United States.

But Mr Kimberley added that there were problems attracting engineers to East Anglia - despite offering "attractive salaries" and paying relocation costs.

"I must confess it has been very difficult," Mr Kimberley said.

"With engineers, the majority prefer the Midlands area because that's where the centre of industry is, so we do have a tough time. The engineers like it here, but very often it's the wives who decide it's too far out - and who ask 'how do we get to see the family in the Midlands?' It's a problem, particularly when there are no decent roads east to west."

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