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2 Pages 08 August 2000

From the Race Tracks to the Shopping Isles
Lotus turns its expertise to the shopping trolley

Lotus, who has designed some of the finest sportscars of the last 50 years, has turned its talents to curing the bane of shoppers around Britain with the development of a perfectly handling five-wheeled supermarket shopping trolley. 

Lotus’ world famous ride and handling engineering group under the leadership of Steve Swift, Head of Vehicle Systems, worked closely with the top designers Richard Seymour and Dick Powell (of Seymour Powell) to redesign the ride and handling of the shopping trolley. The new concept was developed as part of a Channel 4 series, commissioned in association with the Design Council and produced by TV6, called “Better by Design”. 

The task to improve the handling of a shopping trolley was not easy, as Steve Swift explained: 

“The fundamental techniques of vehicle engineering apply to both sportscars and to all other vehicles including the humble shopping trolley. The requirements for a fine handling sportscar are both stability and agility in the driving experience. This can be a conflict but with clever, intelligent design you can find a perfect and balance between sporty handling and confidence inspiring stability.” 

So by applying these design principles to the shopping trolley, Lotus and Seymour Powell managed to perfect a trolley design which gives both agility around a crowded supermarket and stability to enable a heavily laden trolley to be pushed with ease across a busy car-park. 

So what causes the conventional shopping trolleys to handle so poorly?

Shopping trolleys seem to have a “life of their own”, moving in any direction, “crabbing” sideways, drifting downhill when you are pushing the trolley across a slope, in short, a conventional trolley will not go where it is supposed to go. However the heavier the shopping, the harder the trolley is to control. 

So how did Lotus and Seymour Powell do this?

The main difference between a normal shopping trolley and this new super-trolley is the number of wheels. To optimise the handling of the trolley an extra wheel was added and the position of the wheels was rearranged. So instead of four free floating castor wheels (castors which can swivel in all directions) at each corner of the trolley, it was decided that the best arrangement was one free floating castor wheel at the front, two at the rear and the special “break-out” castors on two wheels on either side of the centre of the trolley. 

Special soft compound tyres give a smoother ride and better grip to the trolley, both vital requirements to protect valuable and perishable shopping. 

So why are these trolley centre castors so clever?

When the “super-trolley” is pushed forwards the centre wheel castors lock in the centre position and give stability, but when a sharp movement is made or the trolley is pushed sideways, the special castors unlock and give agility – ideal for those "chicane" manoeuvres near the cheese counter! 

Currently, the super-trolley is a research study between Seymour Powell and Lotus, in conjunction with Sainsbury’s. There are no plans yet to put the trolley into production. 

To view the whole of the development story from concept to running prototype, watch: 

Better By Design: Channel 4, Tuesday 8th August at 8:30pm.


Picture of the Super Trolley with the new Lotus Exige sportscar are available from the Lotus PR Office

The Design Council has developed a web-based educational resource to accompany the series, from where schools and colleges can order videos of all six programmes for £5.99, at

Further information:
Alastair Florance
Chief Press Officer
PR Department
Group Lotus Ltd.
Potash Lane
Norfolk NR14 8EZ
England (GB) 
Tel + 44-(0)-1953-608428
Fax : + 44-(0)-1953-608111 
Luke Blair
Media Relations Manager
Design Council 
34, Bow Street 
Tel.: 0207-7420-5239
Fax.: 0207-4205300
Mob.: 07976-557880 

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