One more hybrid hat has been tossed in the racing ring with the announcement that Lotus Engineering is working with the British firm Oaktec to create a competition version of the Honda Civic Hybrid for use in both rally and circuit racing. Oaktec, an independent company that specializes in energy-efficient vehicle design, approached Lotus Engineering to help explore ways of extracting max levels of total performance from the gas-electric version of the Civic that uses Honda's IMA mild-hybrid powertrain setup. This collaborative effort to find a range of new go-fast tweaks is being done in partnership with Energy Efficient Motorsport, Motorsport Development and Honda UK.
Oaktec began its own development work on the Honda Hybrid system in 2004, and has already achieved some measure of success in national rally events. This latest iteration of Civic Hybrid will see its first wheel-to-wheel on-track combat this weekend at the Dunlop Max Sport Cup event to be held at the Rockingham racing circuit. Oaktec has no doubt that this kind of low-emissions/higher-mileage vehicle has real potential in a time when the rulebooks are being rewritten to encourage the creation of more environmentally friendly motorsport forms.
Phil Barker, Chief Engineer of Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Technologies at Lotus Engineering, outlined the types of specific upgrades the program will address. "Hybrid and electric vehicles are already established on our roads but to make them successful on the racetrack, a number of technical changes have to be employed. Working with Oaktec, we will create a revised electrical specification for more power and a control system that will allow a more aggressive regenerative braking strategy. Lotus Engineering's work on the Honda Civic Hybrid will prove that you can still get high performance while using green technologies."
Already making news this week for its involvement with the Chrysler electric vehicle program, Lotus it treating this challenge as a great opportunity to springboard the organization into a higher-profile position in this emerging arena that effectively pays modern-day tribute to the brilliant motorsport legacy established by its founder, Colin Chapman. According to Mike Kimberley, chief executive officer of Group Lotus: "Lotus Engineering has an enviable track-record in the global automotive industry for the successful delivery of hybrid vehicle programs, applying advanced technologies on the road and now on the racetrack. Our dedicated Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Technologies Group is working on a large number of third party client projects and the collaboration with Oaktec is yet another demonstration of our advanced skills and expertise in the area of hybrid vehicle engineering."