There are hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of small niche-market car makers across the globe. Some cater to the extremely wealthy, while others are more dedicated to the pursuit of performance. But as the global market shifts away from petrol and towards electric cars even these smaller shops are considering EV projects.
Take Caterham for example. Well known in racing circles, this company has essentially survived for decades by building variants on just one type of car, the Series 3 Lotus Seven. Traditionally powered by English-built Ford Kent or Cosworth engines, head honcho Ansar Ali suggested in an interview with Autocar that they maybe, possibly, could-be adding an electric variant to their lineup.
I’ve been a fan of Caterham for quite a while. They offer a (comparatively) low cost, lightweight, fast and fun race car for the masses. Their philosophy has always seemed to be “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, as they have been churning out essentially the same car since 1973 when Graham Nearn bought the rights to produce it after Lotus decided to discontinue it. This allows them to offer a bargain on their cars, with most of the models costing under $40,000 US. It may sound like a lot… but trust me, when it comes to buying a track-ready racer, it really isn’t. The Series 3 Lotus Seven has been in continuous production, pretty much unchanged, for fifty years.
But don’t expect a slapped-together job. In his interview with Autocar, Ali said “We’re trying to pull together some partners and there are a lot who want to be associated with us,” he said. “We want to do this properly and with the right partners, not just stick batteries in the back of a Seven.” Batteries are heavy, as we all know, and the Seven is known for being lightweight and agile. Do it once, do it right.
This would be a great path for Caterham to go down though as races like the Electric Grand Prix and the TTGXP are gaining in popularity. Once people get a real taste of what electric cars can do on the track, they’ll come to realize this ain’t some passing fad; this is the future. As Ali says at the end of his interview with Autocar, “I sense that this is something that is not going to go away as the volume manufacturers have embraced it. With this momentum, it’s inevitable.”