24th February 2005
CONTINUING TO CHANGE THE RULES OF NICHE VEHICLE DEVELOPMENT
Lotus Engineering reveals understructure of its innovative Versatile
Vehicle Architecture (VVA)
Lotus Engineering, the leading automotive engineering consultancy, is
revealing a stunning example of its revolutionary Versatile Vehicle
Architecture (VVA) at the 75th Geneva International Motor Show.
Constructed almost entirely from aluminium subcomponents, the
understructure reveals the next stage in the development of the
innovative technology. The structure reveals the high-pressure die
cast corner nodes that are key to an architecture that additionally
draws upon Lotus'
extensive experience with bonding and extruded aluminium.
"I'm very pleased to be able to demonstrate how far we've come with
VVA," explains Steve Swift, head of vehicle engineering. "The
understructure proves the concept and we're excited about the
possibilities the technology brings to OEMs worldwide."
"We expect that the demonstration of this technology through a real
understructure will stimulate yet more interest from OEMs or
consortiums looking to produce exciting products utilising cost
efficient, proven architecture," he adds.
Versatile Vehicle Architecture
Traditionally OEMs seeking to gain competitive advantage through
exciting niche vehicles have to either design a new platform or share
one already available. Engineering a bespoke low-volume platform is an
expensive, time-consuming solution, whilst sharing a mainstream
chassis normally results in compromises in performance and design.
Lotus Versatile Vehicle Architecture (VVA) has been developed to
bridge a gap in the investment-volume curve to exploit the benefits of
producing at medium volumes but for niche markets, thereby giving the
best chance of business case success and favourable returns.
VVA exploits Lotus Engineering's expertise in aluminium, steel and
composite body engineering, joining techniques, and vehicle systems
integration. This innovative technology offers a fast-to-market,
cost-effective approach to differentiated niche products by spreading
the development, investment and bill of materials burden across a
range of niche vehicle variants, without the compromise that stems
from conventional 'platform sharing'
The philosophy is based on the commonality and versatility of key
elements of the vehicle structure and body systems across a 'family'
of niche vehicle variants, with a combined annual production rate of
up to around 50,000 units. Structural components common to each family
member are arranged in different configurations in each variant around
the ingenious corner nodes.
The great advantage of this technology is that it can be used by one
OEM looking to develop a range of niche products, or by a group of
OEMs looking to share investment, but still retain a high degree of
end product separation.
"We believe it is a technology that provides solutions to a wide range
of manufacturers," says Swift. "The worldwide vehicle market continues
to sub-segment at a rate greater than its overall growth, leading to
lower volumes per vehicle variant. OEMs are looking for architectures
that give them a superior investment return with a high degree of
VVA gives them that opportunity"
The understructure is aluminium riv-bonded, consisting of
high-pressure die-castings, stampings and extrusions, and uses
advanced assembly techniques, including adhesive bonding,
self-piercing rivets and flow-drill screws for construction.
The self-piercing rivets are used in a similar way to spot welding on
a conventional steel shell, with the flow-drill screws used for
single-sided access on closed sections. Both suffice to hold the
structure together during the bonding cure cycle, and prevent adhesive
joint peeling in the event of a crash.
The heat-cured high strength structural adhesive is the main joining
medium, and used in combination with the mechanical fasteners,
produces an immensely strong, durable joint and a lightweight shell
with exceptional torsional stiffness.
Lotus Cars Product
VVA is the technology that will be used by Lotus Cars for a
forthcoming range of sportscars. The understructure exhibits the
principles by which Lotus will engineer its own product
Example VVA families
The following represents illustrative VVA families that could be
Front engine 4wd crossover 15,000 / year
Mid engine rwd supercar 5,000
Front engine rwd coupe 10,000
Front engine rwd saloon 20,000
Front engine fwd coupe 10,000
Front engine 4wd suv 25,000
Mid engine rwd coupe 5,000
Front engine fwd saloon 25,000
Front engine 4wd crossover 30,000