The Caterham Seven is one of those anomalies in the automotive world, having remained relatively unchanged since it’s introduction as the Lotus Seven in 1957 – and for good reason. It’s a purist’s sports car, a stripped-down fun machine that continues to give drivers open-air thrills. But now, it’s being pulled into the 21st century with an all-electric drivetrain.
Caterham has partnered with Swindon Powertrain for the EV Seven, which the British automaker says is meant for both road and track performance. Under the bodywork where the front-mounted engine and transmission would normally reside sits a 51 kWh (40 kWh usable) immersion-cooled battery, which is capable of Level 3 charging up to 152 kW.
That power goes to a version of Swindon’s ‘E Axle’ motor and drivetrain, which produces 240 hp and 183 lb.-ft. of torque and will get the EV Seven from 0-60 mph in four seconds. The E Axle was tuned to mimic the performance of a gas-powered Seven.
What’s notable here is that the conversion to electric hasn’t bloated the EV Seven; Caterham was adamant the car remain light. And it has: at just 700 kg (1,543 lbs), it’s only 70 kg more than the gas-powered car it’s based on. The automaker says it’s capable of a repeatable 20-15-20 drive cycle: the ability to drive on track for 20 minutes, then recharge for 15 minutes with enough energy to drive for a further 20 minutes.
The EV Seven also gets regenerative braking, quad-piston brake calipers, a limited-slip differential and adjustable Bilstein shocks developed for the Seven 420 Cup race series.
Bob Laishley, CEO of Caterham, said: “Any future EV model we produce must be true to the DNA of a Caterham: lightweight, fun-to-drive and driver-focused. 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-tonne Seven – we’d rather not do it.”
The good news is that we’ll see the EV Seven at its public debut at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in the UK in July. The bad news is, you can’t buy an EV Seven, as this is just a test bed for future technologies for Caterham. But the company is also developing another EV that will be revealed later this year.