Caterham is looking for the right recipe to electrify the Seven

Caterham’s new owner wasted no time in laying out its plans for the storied British brand. Japan-based VT Holdings is already planning to release an electric version of the Seven, but it pledged not to dilute what the firm stands for.

VT Holdings CEO Kazuho Takahashi said his group had become the “custodian of a motoring legend” shortly after it purchased Caterham in April 2021, a statement that seemingly indicates a 5,500-pound SUV isn’t in the pipeline. However, he warned adding an EV to the range would likely be necessary, and the model is starting to take shape.

British magazine Autocar learned from Caterham boss Graham Macdonald that his team’s priority is to offset the weight added by the bulky electric powertrain. The EV needs to ride and handle like a Caterham, he clarified. The magazine adds that features found on most modern electric cars, like regenerative braking technology, could be left out to keep mass in check. Weight-saving materials will help engineers achieve their goals, too. And, the electric Seven (whose name hasn’t been revealed yet) will likely be as basic as the firm’s piston-powered cars. The option of making it “bigger, heavier, and nicer to sit in” than current Caterham cars remains on the table, however.

“It’s very much like a go-kart. It’s two pedals, you’ve got rapid acceleration, and it’s a different product to drive. No less exciting, but exciting in a different way,” the CEO summed up after taking a spin in an early prototype. He pegged its zero-to-60-mph time on par with a 620R’s, so approximately 2.8 seconds.

Although VT Holdings will provide Caterham with the cash it needs to electrify the Seven, the motor (or motors, depending on the layout chosen) and the battery pack will come from another carmaker. Executives haven’t announced who they’re talking to yet. As of this writing, Caterham’s gasoline-burning models are powered by Ford-sourced engines; the Super Seven 1600 uses a 1.6-liter four-cylinder rated at 135 horsepower, for example.

Caterham’s first electric model will reach showrooms by 2026, though whether it will be available in the United States is up in the air. As of this writing, the company hasn’t announced plans to phase out its gasoline-powered models. Many of its largest markets, including the United Kingdom and Japan, plan to ban the sale of non-electric cars in the coming years, but Caterham will sell cars with pistons and an exhaust pipe for as long as regulations allow it to.

“My ambition is to keep combustion engines going as long as we possibly can, as long as we can find an engine that fits our product, but that’s becoming harder now. Everybody is going smaller and fitting turbochargers, and that’s not what he want,” he explained.

Caterham isn’t the first company to try making a Seven with zero local emissions. In 2019, Bulgaria-based Kinetic gave the roadster a 650-horsepower electric powertrain and a unique design that can be customized by each buyer.

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