► Bentley's first EV in the pipeline
► 2025 will start battery-electric push
► Of course, it'll be an SUV first
Bentley will phase engines out this decade, so it needs to get this car, its first EV, absolutely right. The new electric SUV will be just the start of Bentley's full EV range, leveraging the wider VW Group.
It'll be an Audi collaboration
Bentley's EV will lean on the VW Group's Artemis platform, of which Audi is spearheading. CEO Adrian Hallmark told CAR: 'With our current cars, we had to get into the engineering largely after they [the platforms] had been done. The difference now is that with Artemis we're right in there at the beginning, helping define it. We're not leading it, but we're going to be a beneficiary of it.
'Looking forward to electrification, we're going to have closer synergies with Audi. But we will continue to have strong relationships with both brands [Audi and Porsche], and we see this as an opportunity, not a risk. No question – we are electrifying. And we need to find the best way to fast-track that, and to lead the technology charge.'
Will the first e-Bentley be an SUV? Hallmark's a fan of the style: 'If you're not in SUVs, you're nowhere.'
Electric power suits Bentley
'2025 is the right time for us,' says Hallmark. 'Weight is a concern. But we're seeing rapid evolution in battery power density, and we're dedicated to making things lighter and more aerodynamic. And battery-electric vehicles are right for Bentley; quiet, effortless, high torque, refined performance.'
Targets will define the car
'We tend to start with a design that's unbuildable, then work out how to build it,' laughs Hallmark. 'With EVs you have to do it the other way around. Look at the [Jaguar] i-Pace. It was designed around the battery. That gave the width and the wheelbase, and the height to get the occupants in.
'Then aero was the next determinant. Styling was last. As we move into EVs we're not going to throw away our brand DNA. But we have to reinterpret it and be a bit more progressive.'
It's going to be immaculately timed
'I'm proud of the fact that we launched the first generation of our new era with a 12-cylinder engine, and since then we've sold more 12-cylinder cars than any other company ever. But the customer mindset is changing; 39 per cent of Bentley owners are considering a BEV as their next car.'
The electric Bentley will come after a Flying Spur plug-in hybrid later in 2021 and, potentially, a Continental GT plug-in hybrid too.
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