Aston Martin Rapide E: first all-electric Aston plugs in at Shanghai

Published: 16 April 2019

► Aston Martin Rapide E revealed
► World debut at Shanghai show
65kWh battery, 200-mile range

The rules are changing fast: when you see the full production version of the Aston Martin Rapide E electric car launching before most volume car brands have got round to showing theirs, you know that even the world’s fastest and most famous car brands cannot escape the inexorable shift to electrification.

Aston chose the 2019 Shanghai motor show to showcase its new electric vehicle (EV) and chief creative officer Marek Reichman was on hand to unveil it. This is a limited series car, with just 155 due to be built at the new St Athan factory in Wales.

Think of the electric Rapide as a warm-up act for the next-generation EVs under development in Gaydon.

How to electrify an Aston Martin Rapide

Aston Martin has teamed up with Williams Advanced Engineering to create the Rapide E. Out comes the regular V12, replaced by a pair of chunky electric motors driving the rear wheels - and a modestly large 65kWh battery pack mounted in the space where the petrol engine, transmission and fuel tank would normally sit.

Aston Martin Rapide E

There’s been a host of modifications to the regular petrol-powered Rapide, although there’s undeniably a whiff of this being an internal combustion engine (ICE) car that’s been adapted to cope as an EV, rather than this being a ground-up electric car. That honour befalls the next generation of higher-volume Aston EVs. Think of this as the testbed.

Much attention has been lavished upon the Rapide’s aerodynamics, with active shuttering of the grille, a smooth undertray, cheeky rear diffuser and bespoke, slippery forged aluminium wheels; to aid its progress through the air, there’s been much smoothing and aero trickery - so much so, that Aston Martin claims an 8% improvement to the drag figure. Impressive, super-slippery stuff.

Electric specs, range and battery details

Where you’d normally find a 6.0-litre V12, transmission and fuel tank you’ll find the EV hardware turning the Rapide into an electric limo. There’s a 65kWh lithium ion battery enclosed in a carbonfibre and kevlar casing, comprising more than 5600 cylindrical cells.

They power a pair of rear-mounted electric motors, whose combined output totals the equivalent of 602bhp and 701lb ft. Slow the Rapide E is not.

The 2019 Shanghai motor show was the launchpad for the new Aston Martin Rapide E

Aston Martin quotes 155mph v-max, 0-60mph in less than three seconds and a 50-70mph sprint of just 1.5sec. That last figure is most telling: the Rapide E will provide instant thrust, at any speed, judging by the spec sheet. We’ll know for sure when we drive the electric Aston Martin later in 2019.

There are a few tweaks onboard, reflecting the swap from petrol to volts. Where you’d normally find analogue dials in a V12 Rapide, you’ll now see a 10-inch digital display, which reports battery charge, regen braking info and connection with an app which reports battery status, charging points en route and details like where you’ve parked your car back to your phone.

How long to charge up? And what’s the range?

Aston Martin quotes a WLTP range of ‘over 200 miles,’ which is mildly disappointing in this age of 300+ miles among the market leaders. But remember this is a stepping-stone EV - and one based wholly on an already-ageing limousine platform.

Only 155 Aston Martin Rapide E electric cars will be built

If you’re charging up the Rapide E, the 800-volt system can onboard 185 miles of range every hour if you charge on a 50kW fast-charger, according to Aston Martin. Find a rapid charger with 100kW or more, and you’ll charge at 310 miles of range every hour. It’s not quite up to the latest Tesla Supercharging of 1000 miles every 60 minutes, but it’s still acceptably fast.

The onboard AC charger can top up the battery at a domestic connection at home in as little as three hours, says Gaydon.

The boss on the Aston Martin Rapide E

Andy Palmer, president and CEO of Aston Martin Lagonda, said: ‘Unveiling the Rapide E will be a huge moment for Aston Martin. As our first all-electric production car, it is a truly historic step. One that signals Aston Martin is prepared for the huge challenge of an environmentally responsible and sustainable future. 

Aston Martin Rapide E interior

‘As a car company we cannot afford to passively allow that future to come to us; we have to actively chase it. Only by doing this can we learn and prepare, but also preserve those things we love as drivers and car enthusiasts. 

‘That’s why it was so important to me that in embracing EV technology we should not let go of those unique qualities that define an Aston Martin. I believe Rapide E embodies that desire and paves the way for a hugely exciting future.’

How much does the Aston Martin Rapide E cost?

That’s the $64 million question. Aston says ‘prices are available on application,’ so we’ll be sure to ask the executives on the stand at the 2019 Shanghai motor show.

You can order a Rapide E now. 

Our Aston Martin Rapide AMR review


Aston boss Andy Palmer has already tweeted a video of a red metallic Rapide saying that it was the 'firt validation prototype' of the new full EV model. The video shows the prototype gently hum away.

The Rapide E has been a long time coming, with Aston revealing a concept first in 2015, and then confirming it as a production model in 2017.

It will laser-target the forthcoming Porsche Taycan.


Keep reading for everything else you need to know about the Aston Martin Rapide E.

Aston Martin Rapide E: the lowdown

Just 155 examples of the Aston Martin Rapide E will be made, with production starting in 2019 at Aston Martin’s EV-focused St Athan site in Wales – the same place where that’ll manufacture Aston’s all-electric Lagonda models. We’re told deliveries will take place towards the tail end of next year, and there’s no price yet. Estimates are suggesting £250,000, though. 

Williams Advanced Engineering – the R&D and consultancy arm of the F1 team – will also be involved in the building and prototype testing process, but Aston Martin says buyers will get their say, too.

According to the company’s statement, ‘customers will be an extended part of the ongoing Rapide E program, with their comments and driving providing an invaluable steam of feedback that will shape and help improve future EVs.’

Okay, what are the EV's tech specs?

The Rapide E will be powered by a 65 kWh battery capable of superfast 800v power transfers. Unlike the Taycan, which uses a skateboard-style battery layout, the Rapid E instead removes the Rapide’s usual 6.0-litre V12, gearbox and fuel tank – and replaces it with 5600 lithium-ion cylindrical cells and two rear-mounted electric motors. Both will drive through a limited-slip diff and the Rapide E will also feature a revised suspension to cope with its new weight distribution.

Still, this isn’t like the purpose-built Taycan; the Rapide E will be more of an ICE-car adaptation than a bespoke, ground-up EV.
 

Power is rated at 601bhp (up 50bhp on the original V12 you’d usually find in the car) while torque is up to or 700lb ft (more than 240lb ft more than the original  car).

The batteries will be supplied by Hyperbat Limited, a new joint venture between WAE and the Unipart Manufacturing group. Aston says the Rapide E’s electric motors will be sourced from Integral Powertrain, while all 600 horses will go through an Xtrac transmission.

But how fast is the Rapide E? What’s the performance?

The Rapide E is targeting an 155mph v-max and sub-4.0 second 0-60mph time, while instant torque means the Rapide E can climb from 50-70mph in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it 1.5 seconds. Like Porsche, Aston Martin is also keen to stress that this EV performance will be accessible regardless of battery charge and should be repeatable in a short period of time. That’s in contrast to the new Tesla Roadster, which limits power use over a set period of time.

As you’d expect, Aston Martin has also gone to the Nurburgring, but partly to ensure that the power system won’t unravel under repeated hard use. They insist it won't go into a limited power mode when driven over a fast lap.

Fly like a V12, whisper like a Tesla...

Interestingly, Aston Martin doesn’t want this car to ‘feel’ electric, and has instead tried to offer a V12-style power delivery.

Engineers are already working on software to imitate the response of a 12-cylinder lump, and combined with the aforementioned suspension tweaks, this car should still feel relatively like a traditional Aston. We'll know for sure when we drive it in the coming months.

And the Rapide E's electric range? 

The Rapide E is shooting for a 200-mile (WLTP) range, and should charge at 185 miles of range an hour when using a 400v 50kW charger. However, like the Porsche Taycan, Aston says the Rapide E can also charge at 800v, and that high-voltage battery system should up the charging rate to 310 miles or range an hour.

Aston will furnish its new EV with special, low-rolling-resistance Pirelli P Zero tyres, and low-drag wheels for even more efficiency.

By Curtis Moldrich

CAR's online editor and racing-sim enthusiast

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