Caterham surprised Tokyo with the announcement that it will build its first electric sports car. The battery bullet will be either a full electric car or a hybrid and it'll be campaigned in a one-make series in 2011.
'It'll either be a bought-in full electric power pack or we'll buy in an electric hybrid pack and attach it to an existing Caterham engine,' Caterham CEO Ansar Ali told CAR. 'So you'd get the low-end torquiness of a hybrid and the top end power of a Caterham.'
The battery gubbins will fit in the Seven chassis and Ali claims the weight penalty is negligible, once you trade off the loss of mechanical bulk (engines, gearboxes, propshaft) for the EV or hybrid technology.
The Caterham EV will be more expensive at first, but Caterham hopes if the trial is successful they could get the price down. If successful on track and with customers, the battery-powered models would be developed for road use too.
'We are and have been looking at electric vehicles and hybrids for some time, particularly focusing on our motorsport efforts,' said Ali. 'We mustn't lose our DNA of power, performance and passion – and we must not dilute the driving experience. Although we are behind the curve on battery and hybrid tech, we have been championing lightweight, 500kg sports cars for some time. The rest of the world is only just catching up on the need for light weight.'
The announcement came as Caterham gave the R300 its Japanese debut (the blue car) and unveiled a JDM-spec Roadsport 200. Meanwhile, the CSR300 (the orange car) made its world premiere with a 175bhp 2.0-litre Ford Duratec engine. It replaces the CSR260, which had Cosworth 2.3, but the company is pulling out of road car engine production.
Japan remains an important market for Caterham, with it selling 50-75 cars a year.