The Delta E-4 Coupe is an electric car designed by the same motorsport engineering company that builds the Lotus Elise-based 1200 hp Hennessey Venom GT – so you’d expect the E-4 Coupe to be more exciting than the average electric car.
The basic concept of the E-4 is an encouraging starting point. It’s a rear-wheel drive coupe designed from a clean-sheet as an electric car, with the bulk of its weight, in the form of its batteries, sitting at the very bottom of the car, and between the front and rear axles. This means a very low centre of gravity and ideal weight distribution.
The driving position is much more racing car than family saloon; you sit very low, which is exactly where you should be if you’re driving a sports car. There’s no roar from the exhaust when the engine fires up as you’d normally expect in a creation from a motorsport company, instead, there’s just complete silence. However you’re no longer in any doubt whether the car is switched on when you accelerate, as the E-4 Coupe displays the highly impressive 100% torque from standstill that is common to all electric cars. The E-4 is somewhat faster than production electric cars such as a Nissan LEAF, with a 0-60 mph time of just 6.5 seconds. And the entire 0-60 mph acceleration experience is delivered in the completely linear way that no combustion engine-car can match.
Body roll around bends is virtually non-existent, and there are very few electric cars that provide this level of rear-wheel drive feel through corners. There are currently a few rattles from the suspension, but such issues are being worked on.
The two-wheel drive E-4 Coupe can go on to a maximum of 115 mph, and it has a range of 150 miles (but not both at the same time…). The car is also designed so that it can be four-wheel drive thanks to extra electric motors, so the power and torque both increase and the 0-60 mph time will drop down to less than 5 seconds.
Despite the fact that the E-4 Coupe drives like a racing car, it’s a four-seater – and we’re not talking 2+2 – there’s lots of legroom for rear seat occupants. But it gets better – there’s even a good-sized boot.
And as you’ll see from the photographs, the E-4 Coupe also has interesting doors. Opening and closing them takes a bit of getting used to, but the reward is good access for front and rear seat passengers.
This superb packaging is possible because it’s an electric car. The main ‘powerplant’ – the 350 kg battery pack – sits under the floor. There are actually three trays for the batteries to sit in, and they can be swapped for new batteries in less than one hour if required. Ancillaries such as the electric motors, and their cooling system, sit under the low, short bonnet. Even with the weight of the battery pack, due to its lightweight construction, the E-4 Coupe only weighs 975 kg in total. And it’s also extremely aerodynamic, which again helps with efficiency.
Delta has built five E-4 Coupes. They are purely technology demonstrators at this stage, and are part of a project called EEMS Accelerate, which is funded by the government’s Technology Strategy Board. The cars are used daily to monitor how they perform, including in the area of charging.
Because the E-4 Coupe isn’t on sale yet, the car doesn’t have a price tag, but if it did, it may be around £60-£70,000 due to the likely low volumes.
The E-4 Coupe recently took part in the RAC Future Car Challenge. Driven by Kevin McCloud, TV’s Grand Designs presenter, the E-4 Coupe came 7 th out of over 60 entries, with the scoring based on the least energy used over the 57 mile route from Brighton to London.
Delta Motorsport is based at Silverstone and offers a design and build service for the automotive industry and motorsport – and increasingly this involves low carbon technologies such as developing electric motors and electric vehicle power controllers for clients. Other potential future projects include range extender and hybrid systems.
One car that Delta builds that can’t really be described as low carbon is the Hennessey Venom GT. This is based on a Lotus Elise platform, and the bodywork still looks like a pumped-up Elise – but there are a few key differences compared to the Lotus – for example the Venom GT produces 1200 hp, has 1155 lb ft of torque, accelerates from 0-60mph in 2.5 seconds and goes on to 267 mph. You may have guessed by now that the Venom doesn’t share the same 1.6-litre Toyota engine that’s in the standard Elise – it’s been replaced with a twin-turbo 6.2-litre V8. Apart from occasional very low volume projects such as the Venom GT, Delta isn’t looking to manufacture cars itself.
Delta is also looking to get involved with the LMP1 World Endurance Championship, ultimately working with a manufacturer on a hybrid car. More news about this will be revealed in due course.
So with the E-4 Coupe, what’s the next stage? Both Simon Dowson and Nick Carpenter, the directors of Delta Motorsport, would like to be working with other partners to bring the E-4 Coupe, and other projects, to market. Despite all the challenges that the UK economy faces, there is a real opportunity for small British companies to develop innovative low carbon vehicles. The ideas element is the bit we’re good at in the UK; bringing such vehicles to market, and having the investment to see this through, is the challenge. The Delta E-4 Coupe is a seriously energy-efficient vehicle that is also good to drive, so it certainly wins our support, and we hope it will win the financial backing of others.