Massive power and heavy batteries, that’s what EVs are, right? Well maybe they don’t have to be. Caterham has built a pair of prototype electric cars, simply called EV Sevens, to see if it can make an electric car that delivers what its gas cars provide: lightweight, minimalist fun.
The numbers are seriously impressive, starting with the most important statistic with Caterhams: weight. The company says the EV Seven weights a little less than 150 pounds more than a Seven 485, putting it at somewhere below 1,543 pounds (700 kg). That’s even more impressive considering that it features a battery pack with 40 kWh of usable battery capacity (51 kWh total). No range estimates were given, but the entry-level Nissan Leaf features the same amount of capacity, and delivers around 150 miles of range. Everything fits in the large version of the Caterham chassis that’s currently in production as an offering with a bit more interior room. Specifically, the batteries fill up the engine bay and transmission tunnels.
The batteries themselves are interesting. Caterham says that the cells are submerged directly in a dielectric solution created by Motul in order to provide maximum cooling. We wouldn’t be surprised if this more direct cooling system also helps with space and weight. The cooling is important, since Caterham’s goal is to make the EV Seven very track capable. It wants to be able to deliver 20 minutes of full-speed track use, followed by 15 minutes of charging, which would in turn allow for 20 more minutes of track driving. That’s hard work for batteries, which will generate a lot of heat. Caterham has fitted a DC fast charger capable of charging up to 152 kW, which will also generate a fair bit of heat.
Besides having endurance comparable to a gas Caterham, the EV Seven will have raw performance numbers right on target, too. The motor and gearbox come from Swinden Powertrain. It’s rear-mounted and makes 240 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. The single-speed gearbox and limited-slip differential send that power to the rear, and propel the EV Seven to 60 mph in an estimated 4 seconds, on to a 130 mph estimated top speed. That puts it just behind the Seven 420 and 485, the most powerful naturally aspirated street cars Caterham makes. And to match the power, the EV Seven gets the 420 Cup’s adjustable Bilstein shocks and a set of four-piston brake calipers.
The Caterham EV Seven sounds like a near-perfect little electric sports car. Except for the fact that it might be a while before we can get our hands on one. Caterham CEO Bob Laishley said in the press release, “We’re going to 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.”
So the car shown here isn’t going on sale any time soon. But the public will get to see it in person in July when it makes its debut at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. And Caterham will undoubtedly bring something to market in the future once it has its EV tech dialed in.