Bentley boss: "We're in a rush to build an EV"

by Jim Holder, Autocar UK 09 Jul 2019


Bentley is “in a rush” to build an electric car, but the technology to do it credibly won’t exist until at least 2025, according to boss Adrian Hallmark.

Speaking at the Goodwood Festival of Speed Hallmark highlighted customer survey data that shows Bentley owners or aspiring buyers are 30 percent more inclined to own an EV than for any other super-luxury brand, plus customer clinic data from a concept that showed its desirability would rise by 30 percent if it were a pure EV.

“Let me be clear - I am in a rush to build an electric Bentley,” said Hallmark. “As a brand we should be at the forefront, and it is clear that there is absolute demand from certain customers for it - including a new target group of customers who want it, not just to comply with regulations but because it is desirable to them.

“But the issue is whether we can build a car that meets our values - and today we cannot. The conundrum is getting enough battery power density, getting the battery control modules as efficient as possible and then creating a car that delivers the required aero, rolling resistance and other parameters to be as efficient as possible.

“Today, with the technology available, it would be like buying a battery that could only power a light bulb to half its capacity. A battery that was the right size to fit a Bentley wouldn’t give the range required, a battery that gave the range required would make the car too heavy and so on - the equation doesn’t work whichever way you flex it.

“We are wrestling with multiple dimensions and it is my belief - and it is an informed estimate not a defined goal - that we will have the capability of building a car with the high performance and high range capabilities that our customers expect by around 2025.”

Hallmark indicated that a real-world range of 400 miles was a minimum for an electric Bentley, the same as typically available on a tank of fuel for today’s cars. However, he also cautioned that solid-state battery technology - seen as the next leap forward in battery capability in terms of range, was at least five to 10 years away from being industrialised.

“Even solid state prototypes are two to three years away, and the first production is likely to be around 20 times the cost of an internal combustion engine, which would add a huge amount of cost,” he said.

Hallmark said there was a need for an improved charging infrastructure to entice his customers to buy electric cars, highlighting the Ionity network’s progress, which VW Group is a part owner of along with several other car manufacturers. It is expected to have installed as many chargers in Europe as there are in the Tesla Supercharger network by the end of this year.

“The real tipping point will be 800V charging - the prospect of getting 300 miles of range in 20 minutes really changes the game,” he said.

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