Caterham will showcase its most radical model in decades – a stunning electric two-seat sports car entirely unrelated to the Seven – in a matter of months.
As first reported last year, the Kent-based car maker – now with the backing of Japanese firm VT Holdings – has plans for a totally new model to serve as the spearhead for its transition into the era of electrification.
While it was “just an idea in people’s heads” in September, plans have fast progressed and the new design will be showcased in the coming months as Caterham marks its 50th anniversary.
Leading the design programme is new design chief Anthony Jannarelly, best known for the W Motors Lykan Hypersport and his own Jannarelly Design-1 a retro-styled, rear-driven sports car with a Nissan V6 and an ultra-light, Le Mans-inspired body.
Working in partnership with Italdesign in Turin, the Frenchman is using this project as an opportunity to “please the existing Caterham fans while also trying to reach another type of audience” for the brand.
Creating this “bridge”, as he put it, is a “big responsibility”, but he is “not nervous, because it’s exciting”.
“I would say at the end it’s an exciting moment. My main hope is people will understand the message coming from Caterham,” he said.
This message is that Caterham’s principles can be carried into and successfully embodied by a completely new product, irrespective of its positioning and the nature of its powertrain.
“The principle is always lightness,” Jannarelly said. “What everybody loves about the Seven is that it’s a simple car that just works, and even if we’re making an Electric Vehicle, we will try to apply the same philosophy. It’s very simple. There will be no fancy features. The main thing is your enjoyment in driving this car.
“We’re trying to make it as light as possible. So the performance which we will get out of it will be just great. And the driving pleasure is a consequence of this lightness. The key words are always simplicity, lightness and driving joy.”
The brand’s enthusiast appeal has also had a strong influence on the new car’s conception, said Jannarelly: “What do you get when you get a Caterham? You get something different than from other cars. If you buy a Caterham, you’re someone a bit more daring; you’re not a mainstream person. And that’s something I’d like to put into the future model.”
Jannarelly has almost total freedom with this car, because the function-over-form Seven “has no styling” as such.
“The next car we’re going to make is the first car where we can really apply what could be the ‘Caterham styling’, which was not a fact of the Seven, which came from the Lotus 7,” he explained.
Beyond confirming that it won’t have a long bonnet and won’t be “bulky”, Jannarelly stopped short of giving strong clues as to the shape and size of the new model, although he did point to the slimness and simplicity of an Electric Vehicle architecture as facilitators for improved packaging and compactness.
Jannarelly’s commitment to lightness and simplicity tallies with Caterham CEO Bob Laishley’s passion for maintaining the brand’s hallmarks.
“This will definitely not be a Seven,” Laishley previously said about the Electric Vehicle. “But it will have all the characteristics today’s Caterham customers know well: lightness, simplicity, agility and performance.”
He continued: “Like the Seven, it will have a steel spaceframe – but a different one – because they’re easy to modify in production if you need to. It will have a six-panel enveloping body in aluminium or carbonfibre: two sills, two doors plus clamshell openings front and rear. It will be prettier and more modern than a Seven – those will be big points of distinction – and maybe it will have a roof. We’re designing it as a pure Electric Vehicle from the start, with rear drive only, and it will be registered under SVA rules.”
It’s not yet clear if Caterham will reveal a concept car or a pre-production prototype this year, but Laishley hinted at a plan to build the Electric Vehicle in a new factory – recently opened in Dartford – at greater volumes than the Seven and for it to have a higher base price.
Caterham hasn’t suggested an on-sale date for the new car, but VT Holdings CEO Kazuho Takahashi’s eagerness to see it reach production suggests it could come as soon as 2026.
Q&A: Anthony Jannarelly, chief designer, Caterham
What drew you to Caterham?
“A Caterham was the first car I bought when I moved to Dubai, and that was a bit surprising, because I was a designer of a €3 million supercar [the W Motors Lykan], but actually what I wanted to drive was this very lightweight, back-to- basics retro sports car.”
Is it daunting to create an all-new Caterham model?
“If you expect something like the Seven, it’s not. Even if you asked me to redesign the Seven, we wouldn’t know what to do, because the beauty of the car is that form follows function, so anything you try to add or modify is pointless. So it’s difficult to try to analyse it too much. The new car has to have some similarities in the experience it gives you and the overall approach to design concept, but it can’t be something close to the Seven. That’s going to be the difficult thing, maybe, for some people to accept.”
How will electrification influence the design?
“The beauty of electric technology is that you have a lot of space everywhere. The only issue for a sports car is the battery pack in the lower part of the car, so you need to find some tricks to make sure that the car doesn’t get too high. But once you’ve done that, you’re mainly free: you put your four wheels and you really try to be as close as possible to the bones of the car. An electric car platform is very skinny and simple. For me, that’s a great opportunity to apply the DNA of Caterham, which is simplicity.”
In other news, Fleets and OEMs invited to join battery partner network.
With battery suppliers and automotive companies focussing on second-life use to improve their sustainability credentials and revenue models, Connected Energy is hoping to take advantage.
It turns Electric Vehicle batteries into its E-Stor battery energy storage systems, which it says are being increasingly used in the UK and Europe to help overcome local grid limitations, with applications including powering Electric Vehicle charging hubs and capturing energy generated from renewable sources.
To support its growth into these markets, Connected Energy has appointed Alex Charr as head of strategic partnerships for batteries.
He will build relationships with automotive OEMs, vehicle providers and fleet operators to create sources of second life batteries. He will also develop ‘battery-as-a-service’ business models with financial institutions.
By repurposing batteries at the end of the life in a vehicle, the company’s battery storage technology doubles the working life of the Electric Vehicle batteries.
“There is a genuine circularity to our business model,” explained Charr. “For example, fleets could be using batteries from their old EVs as energy storage in their depots, supporting the charging of their current vehicles. It’s a perfect loop.”
Matthew Lumsden, CEO of Connected Energy, said: “We are working at the nexus of transport and energy, creating sustainable energy storage solutions that reuse the batteries from yesterday’s EVs to charge today’s electric fleets.
“We need people who understand all aspects of those sectors to help our business continue on its current growth trajectory.
“Alex has a deep understanding of the e-mobility market and a great track record in innovation. He has the knowledge and experience to help us grow our battery pipeline as demand increases for our products.”
And finally, Fleet and business registrations dominate April’s new car market.
The number of new company cars registered in April increased by 32%, with 17,300 more vehicles delivered to fleets than in the same month last year.
There were 71,648 new cars registered to fleet and business in April, compared to 54,251 last year, equating to a market share of 54%. This time last year, fleet and business registrations accounted for 46% of the market.
Year-to-date, fleet and business registrations are up by an even higher 38%, holding 54% market share with 337,655 new company cars registered, compared to 244,388 units in the first four months of 2022 and a 46% market share.
Overall, the UK new car market recorded its ninth successive month of growth in April, with an 11.6% increase to reach 132,990 registrations.
It marks the best April since 2021’s 141,583 units, but is still 17.4% down on 2019 volumes.
Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said: “The new car market is increasingly bullish, as easing supply chain pressures provide a much-needed boost.”
As a result, electrified vehicles accounted for more than one in three registrations in April. Petrol-powered cars retained their best-selling status, comprising 58.1% of all registrations.
However, Hawes said: “The broader economic conditions and charge point anxiety are beginning to cast a cloud over the market’s eagerness to adopt zero emission mobility at the scale and pace needed.
As supply chain pressures have begun to ease, the overall market is now up 16.9% in the first four months – the best start to a year since the pandemic.
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