Yes, it’s a Lotus-based electric car, but it’s not a Tesla – meet the Nemesis, one man’s concept of the electric future. Wards: Mark Dixon.
Fossil fuel’s Nemesis?
Dale Vince, OBE, is an unlikely-looking businessman. When we meet at his Gloucestershire country house, he’s wearing artfully torn jeans and a faded T-shirt, and there’s loud rock music playing somewhere in an upstairs room; with his long hair he looks more like a successful musician than the boss of an electricity company. Or, indeed, the driving force behind a radical new sports car.
The Nemesis takes electric car performance to a new level. Its lithium-ion polymer battery pack gives the equivalent of 330bhp, and a range of 100-150 miles (enough for 96% of UK car journeys, ripostes Vince to the inevitable question about range anxiety’. Besides, he points out, battery technology is developing so rapidly that it will soon be possible to take on board a 50% charge in five minutes.
And Vince knows his subject, having an impressive CV as the founder and MD of Ecotricity, the world’s largest supplier of green’ electricity. But in Vince’s case, appearances are not entirely deceptive. For 15 or 20 years I was a drop-out,’ he explains. I was living in a trailer on top of a hill. That’s when I became interested in windmills…’
That interest in windmills’ led to Dale setting up Ecotricity to supply wind turbine-generated electricity. But Dale is as much of a speed-freak as any petrolhead – he just prefers his energy to be non-polluting. So he pulled together a small team of experts, including car designer Peter Stevens, to help develop the Nemesis. It had to be a no-compromise car,’ says Vince. People won’t accept electric cars if they don’t work at least as well as the petrol-powered cars they already have.’
Basis for the Nemesis was an eBay-sourced Lotus Exige, which has been lengthened by 900mm and given an entirety new carbonfibre rear section. The centre of gravity has been lowered and shifted forward; weight is some 150kg more than a supercharged Exige’s but the power-to-weight ratio is much higher, too. This is very much a prototype, so no attention has been paid to luxuries such as heating or noise insulation. Performance is everything. And it certainly performs. Push the throttle hard and the Nemesis gathers speed like an F14 being catapult launched from the USS Enterprise. Sounds like it, too, making an incredible jet fighter roar under acceleration, a noise which abates only slightly at cruising speed. Frankly, it’s pretty exhausting and it’s markedly different to the discreet whoosh emitted by a Tesla.
So the Nemesis is noisier and less civilised than the Tesla. It is, however, lighter and faster, with a claimed 0-100mph time of 8.5sec, and – as far as we could tell from a drive on wet, crowded B-roads – better handling. Unlike in the American car, you don’t immediately notice the extra weight of the batteries, and the Nemesis’s Exige suspension has been left largely unchanged aside from uprated rear dampers. It handles like a Lotus, in other words, rather than a Lotus that’s bearing a payload it was never designed to carry.
This car won’t go into production, but Vince and his team will use the lessons learned for future projects. They have nothing less than the Land Speed Record for production cars in their sights, with a four-wheel-drive electric supercar that will develop over 700bhp. All they need is the funding…