Group Lotus, majority owned by China’s Zheijiang Geely Holding Group, began construction of a new R&D centre in Wuhan this week to accelerate the development of new electric vehicle models.

Wuhan R&D will become the headquarters of the company’s newly established Lotus Technology division and is scheduled to be completed in 2024.

Lotus said in a statement the role of the new division was to “accelerate innovation in the fields of batteries and energy management, electric motors, electronic control systems, intelligent driving, intelligent manufacturing and more”.

The new HQ is part of the company’s CNY26bn (US$4bn) investment in Wuhan which also includes a new CNY8bn vehicle production plant scheduled to become operational later this year. The plant will have a production capacity of 150,000 vehicles per year and will be the company’s first outside the UK.

The Wuhan plant will produce vehicles designed for daily use while the UK plant will focus on making high-performance electric and petrol sports cars.

The ground-breaking ceremony for the new R&D centre was attended by Geely chairman Eric Li, Group Lotus CEO Feng Qingfeng and founder of Chinese EV startup Nio, Li Bin, who invested in a recent Group Lotus fundraising round.

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Lotus’ product plans for the next five years were announced at the ceremony which the company said were “developed jointly by Lotus Technology and the highly experienced Lotus team in the UK”.

The company said a new E-segment SUV, codenamed Type 132, will be launched in 2022, to be followed by the Type 133 E-segment four-door coupe in 2023 and the Type 134 D-segment SUV in 2025. A new electric sports car, the Type 135, will be launched in 2026, to be followed by a second SUV model. These will all be produced in Wuhan.

The Evija electric 1,972 hp coupe, which was launched in 2019 priced at around US$2m, and the Emira, the last petrol-powered sports car from Lotus, will be produced at the Hethel plant in the UK.

In the field of intelligent drive, Lotus unveiled the concept of ‘track-level intelligent drive’ which has a 10-year technological development target. The company said the new technology “aims to assist drivers to perform as well as an F1 driver on the track, while increasing driver safety and improving performance on the road through advanced software and hardware. The result is a more rewarding and reassuring experience in any environment”.

Feng Qingfeng said in a statement: “This is an important day in the transformation of the Lotus business and brand. Lotus Technology will accelerate innovation which has always been at the heart of the business. Together the China and UK teams will empower our journey towards an expanded, intelligent and electric future, achieving the ambitions and goals that have been in the making of the Lotus brand for 73 years.”

The new Group Lotus business plan involves global sales of around 100,000 vehicles per year which includes entry into new markets globally.

Lotus is enabling Geely, which already controls brands such as Volvo and Lynk & Co, to enter the high performance luxury car segments.