Emissions rules that are forcing large-scale automakers to aggressively develop electric vehicles are also forcing Caterham to embrace EVs.
In an interview with Autocar Graham Macdonald, Caterham’s CEO, said the company is busy working on an electric version of the Seven.
He described the prototype as “very much like a go-kart”, and although it is a “different product to drive” believes it will be “no less exciting, but exciting in a different way”.
Specifics for the new vehicle have yet to be nailed down, but the company is leaning towards a basic, relatively lightweight open-wheel roadster similar to today’s petrol-powered models.
Macdonald believes using a third-party skateboard chassis would result in a more comfortable vehicle, but one that loses a lot of the essential Caterham-ness.
Being a small company, Caterham is looking for partners to supply electric motor and battery technology, similar to its current engine deal with Ford.
There is still clearly much to do, but the company is hopeful of launching its first EV within the next five years.
Fast-charging or swappable batteries are possibilities for track-focussed models, but road-going models will likely miss out on such features.
While Macdonald wants to keep producing cars with internal combustion engines for “as long as we possibly can”, things are becoming more complicated as mainstream manufacturers are “going smaller and fitting turbochargerss, and that’s not what we want”.
Additionally, the UK is planning to ban the sale of non-electrified vehicles from 2030, meaning new petrol-powered Sevens cannot be sold as road legal vehicles.
According to Macdonald, the company expects the Seven EV to match the performance of the top-of-range 620 model, which can sprint from 0-60mph (0-97km/h) in 2.85 seconds thanks to its supercharged 231kW 2.0-litre engine.
In Australia, the Caterham Seven range is available with either 100kW 1.6-litre, or 127kW and 177kW 2.0-litre engines.
Caterham was acquired in April by VT Holdings, a large Japanese dealership group, which is also the Japanese importer and distributor for Lotus and Caterham.