As discussed when we exclusively revealed the Zenos Project E10, to stand out in the lightweight, track friendly sports car world you need some sort of technical signature. Ariel has its 'exo skeleton' tubular chassis, KTM its beautifully crafted carbon, Lotus its bonded aluminium tub and Caterham its traditional spaceframe and timeless shape.
The Zenos 'E-Platform' has a central extruded aluminium spine, attached to which will be a tub made from a patented recycled carbon fibre material developed by a former Bentley R&D man by the name of Anthony Dodworth. Retaining a claimed 70 per cent of the material properties of continuous fibre carbon. Dodworth Design's material, sandwiching a thermoplastic core between sheets of carbon, has been adopted by a mainstream manufacturer for use in the floorpan of a forthcoming product. But in the Zenos it'll play a much bigger part, literally at the core of the firm's E-series platform.
But why go to the bother when a traditional spaceframe would have done the job? "The problem with these cars is that the shape of the product becomes locked with the chassis design and contemporary re-skinning is sometimes seen as a contradiction," says Zenos co-founder Mark Edwards. "As a result it becomes very difficult to evolve the shape of the car toward contemporary tastes." As a former Caterham man he's well aware that in the Seven's case this is all part of the appeal. But Zenos needed something different.
Edwards goes on to say that the KTM X-Bow's carbon and Elise's bonded aluminium structures were investigated in the benchmarking process but both are expensive to repair, prohibitively so in some cases.
Dodworth's material was cost effective but bonding it to front and rear subframes as originally considered would have run into the same problem. Inspiration for Edwards came when reading a blog about restoration of another Lotus - an Elan. "Why not saddle the spine with a tub made from the Dodworth material and harness the benefits of both material technologies?" he says.
With the design set the job of making sure it meets all the necessary safety and legislative standards has been given to ex-MIRA engineer Simon Keys of First Principle Design. Roll-over and side protection are important considerations and Keys' experience in this field will make sure the Zenos meets these goals.
"Over the next few weeks further FEA [Finite Element Analysis] and development will hone the Zenos design prior to committing to the tooling required to produce the finished platform," says Edwards. So expect more on the project as it gathers pace towards a formal unveiling in the new year. Keep in touch with the progress here on PH and on the Zenos website.