Even boutique manufacturers aren't safe from electrification.
Caterham has set the cat among the pigeons by announcing the EV Seven - a concept version of the hardcore sports car with an all-electric drivetrain. The news comes shortly after Caterham announced that its first electric vehicle would look nothing like the Seven.
Its design is directly descended from the legendary Lotus 7, designed by Colin Chapman in the late 1950s as a lightweight racer you can drive to the track and back. You can build one in your garage or buy it fully assembled, and it is available with a range of popular and readily available and well-supported engines.
This stripped-down car has the bare minimum in driver aids and safety features, which makes it perfect for those who want an even more lightweight experience than the Mazda Miata offers.
"The concept will test the feasibility of a lightweight electric Seven and enable Caterham to move a step closer to bringing an electric battery model to market that is as driver-focused as its petrol counterpart," said Caterham.
The concept is being developed with Swindon Powertrain Ltd using its E Axle technology and an immersion-cooled battery pack supplied by Caterham's long-term collaborator, Motul.
"Any future EV model we produce must be true to the DNA of a Caterham: lightweight, fun-to-drive, and driver-focused," says Bob Laishley, CEO of Caterham. "The main objective for this project is to develop a vehicle with a weight delta of no more than the equivalent of having a passenger on board. We're never going to launch a one-ton Seven - we'd rather not do it."
That means that the car must be capable of a 20-15-20 drive cycle for the track. As in 20 minutes driving, 15 minutes charging, then another 20 minutes on the track. According to Caterham, track driving is easy for an EV. Rapid charging and discharging are the tricky part, which is why Caterham uses immersion-cooled batteries.
Currently (pun fully intended), the EV Seven makes 240 horsepower with a zero to sixty time of four seconds and is 154 pounds heavier than the equivalent gas-powered version.
"We do not have plans to put EV Seven into production at this stage - it's a test bed to see how well an EV powertrain works for our customer's specific use cases," said Laishley. "We're doing this project with our eyes wide open so that we can learn how to deliver the specific Caterham vehicle attributes necessary for a Seven: lightweight, simple, and fun to drive. We will bring this to market at the right time when the future generation of battery technology allows it, and that's why now is the time for us to trial the concept."
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