01 June 2011

First Drive: Proton EMAS concept

Overall rating: 3 3 3 3 3

Cool-looking as it is, the Proton EMAS concept may not ever see the light of a showroom in reality. However, its battery is backed up by a promising new Lotus-developed 'range extender' engine. We drove it.

Key Facts

Engine: 1.2-litre petrol range extender engine used to charge 370-volt, 16.5kWh battery pack, wheels driven by electric motor
Transmission: single-speed gearbox, rear-wheel drive
Body style: five-door mini-MPV
Rivals: Vauxhall Ampera, Chevrolet Volt
CO2 emissions: 60g/km
Combined economy: Not quoted
Top speed: 105mph
0-62mph: approx. 15 seconds
Power: engine produces up to 50bhp for charging purposes; motor puts out up to 100bhp to wheels
Torque: 325lb.ft maximum from electric motor

In the Metal: 4 4 4 4 4

The Proton EMAS, styled by Italdesign, is a great looking small car. It's much bigger than you first expect, but well proportioned and the lights are very jewel-like.

As this car was originally intended only to occupy a motor show stand, we'll forgive its lack of finish, but the interior style lives up to the exterior's. There's a surfeit of space for all passengers - at the cost of boot space - and the huge glass roof gives the car a unique feel. That's added to by a sophisticated touch-screen infotainment system.

Driving it: 2 2 2 2 2

Concept cars are never the finished article and few are drivable, so we were lucky to get behind the wheel of the EMAS at all. It drives much like any other electric car we've tried, though the gearing isn't quite right so it takes a while to get up to speed, but then quite happily sits at 60mph or so.

In the time we drove the Proton the range extender engine wasn't needed, so the only noise was a whirr from the electric motor and a hum from the tyres. Despite that, the engine is probably the most significant part of the car. It's actually the first iteration of a unit Lotus hopes to bring to market and sell to a large scale car manufacturer. From the outset it was designed to be part of a gen-set, so every aspect of it is optimised for that task.

In a car like the EMAS this engine would run at one of two operating speeds, depending on conditions and the charging requirements of the battery pack. It can take methanol, ethanol or unleaded petrol.

What you get for your Money: 4 4 4 4 4

The price of a production version of the Proton EMAS is speculation at this stage, but its size suggests that it could rival the likes of the Vauxhall Meriva and Ford B-Max or C-Max. The show car is actually really well equipped, with niceties such as climate control, leather seats and a massive panoramic glass roof/windscreen. Along with that Lotus has developed a sophisticated, fully customisable touch-screen system that incorporates all the usual sub-systems such as climate, infotainment and satnav.

Worth Noting

The original design and development of the Lotus range extender engine was carried out as part of a government funded 'Limo-Green' project, where the intention was to develop a luxury car with emissions of just 120g/km. This engine was used under the bonnet of a Jaguar XJ prototype for those purposes, plus in the Lotus Evora 441E concept. Lotus has since developed and redesigned the engine for mass production, with the manufacturing assistance of Fagor Ederlan.


A drive in a concept car never reveals how a production version will feel, but it does let us get much closer to how car designers envisage the future. More than that, the Proton EMAS brings Lotus Engineering's vision of the near future closer - and it's not half bad.

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