Caterham Cars has teamed up with Reynolds Technology, a bicycle tube-maker; and Simpact Engineering, a Computer Aided Engineering (CAE) consultancy, to produce a new automotive chassis that is said to be 10 percent lighter than the already featherweight frame underpinning the Caterham Seven.
The three companies showed the new chassis under a Caterham Seven prototype at the Niche Vehicle Network Symposium earlier this month.
"Caterham has made its name as a purveyor of lightweight sportscars but we believe more can always be done to reduce weight and, therefore, emissions," Simon Lambert, chief technology officer of Caterham Cars, said in a release.
"Caterham and Reynolds are two proudly British brands and there is a real synergy between customers of Caterham and cycling enthusiasts, so it's even better that the technology that has made this possible has come from the two-wheeled world."
The new chassis features butted tubing used in bicycle manufacturing the first use of the technology for an automotive application. Caterham could offer the new butted-tube chassis as part of an optional ultra-lightweight package for the Seven. With an estimated take rate of about 20 percent, the automaker says the new chassis could add about $1,150 to $2,300 (1,000 and 2,000) to the cost of the sports car.
Although Reynolds first patented the original butted tube process in 1897, the company had to develop new tooling and processes for the automotive application, while Simpact provided the virtual analysis, testing, and design of the chassis.
Butted tube technology uses tubes with thicker ends and a thinner middle section allowing for a strong and lightweight construction. The process allows reductions in mass up to 50 percent on some parts without degradation in torsional stiffness or strength, according to Caterham. Low-cost mild steel also makes the chassis cheaper than using more expensive materials.
Although the automaker produced a Caterham Seven with a prototype butted-tube frame, development of the new chassis technology is ongoing. The companies say the new processes can be adopted for other vehicles using spaceframe chassis.