Caterham has started development of hybrid and electric powertrains for its cars, and will unveil a prototype before the end of this year.
Speaking at the Tokyo show, where the firm is one of only three non-Japanese manufacturers exhibiting, Caterham boss Ansar Ali said that the EV programme was live, and would begin with a motorsport application.
“We’re looking first and foremost at motorsport, which we see as a testbed for the technology,”he said.
Caterham is buying in a hybrid drivetrain from another manufacturer, which it can fit to its existing engines. The electric drivetrain is also supplied from an external source, although Ali would not reveal the origin of either system.
The firm wants to start a one-make race series in 2011 using the electric/hybrid car, and it will use the findings from the competition to develop a road car for around 2012.
“We’ve been told by our suppliers that the Caterham layout is good for an electric car – there’s a lot of space under the bonnet,” said Ali. He also revealed that an electric Seven shouldn’t suffer any weight penalty, as the system under consideration should weigh the same as a petrol engine, gearbox and rear axle, and that its performance should be equal to any other Caterham.
Ali also admitted that Caterham is unsure whether or not an alternatively powered Caterham would be a success. “We don’t know if our customer base will be receptive, but by 2012 things may have changed,” he said.