Electric supercars must lose weight to gain power and cool down.

For supercar manufacturers, speed has always been key, and now they’re in a race against time to go electric before climate regulation prohibits them from using combustion engines. That’s why companies like Ferrari (RACE.MI) and Mercedes-Benz are turning to startups like YASA, an electric motor business located in Oxford, for help with the unique challenges of electrifying high-performance vehicles.

Batteries are extremely heavy, and electric motors overheat if driven too fast – major issues for a small sector that charges hundreds of thousands of dollars for lightweight cars capable of roaring around a track at full throttle for ten laps.

Daimler (DAIGn.DE) purchased YASA this year, which developed an “axial flux” high-performance electric motor that weighs 23 kg (50.7 lb), a quarter of a Ferrari’s near-300 kg V12 engine, and is about the size and shape of a steering wheel.

YASA already produces motors for Ferrari, Koenigsegg, and an undisclosed British supercar manufacturer. It will now give Mercedes-high-performance Benz’s AMG brand to Daimler, which will soon change its name to Mercedes-Benz.

Saietta (SED.L), based just a few miles from YASA, has developed a line of water-cooled axial flux motors. The company is preparing to produce motors for the massive Asian motorcycle market, but it told Reuters that it had developed a larger prototype and was in talks with one hypercar manufacturer, as well as two others.

“These manufacturers know combustion engines forwards, backward, and inside out,” said Saietta Chief Commercial Officer Graham Lenden. “But they don’t know electric powertrains and what they’re looking for is someone to hold their hand.”

Yet, this is unexplored ground, with no obvious path to electrification for high-performance automobiles. To survive the demise of combustion engines, supercar manufacturers will have to invest billions of dollars, with no guarantee that the technologies they adopt will pay off in the long run.

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