Bentley EV Big line-up rethink starts with 2025 EV saloon

Bentley EV Big line-up rethink starts with 2025 EV saloon

Bentley’s first EV kicks off brand’s bold reinvention High-riding electric saloon will spearhead ambitious bid to expand Bentley line-up.


NEW BENTLEY WHY THIS BENTLEY EV CHANGES EVERY THING

RADICAL 2025 SALOON There’ll be no finer way to beat the ban


Bentley’s debut electric vehicle, due in 2025, will be one of the first cars to use a new cutting-edge Audi-developed luxury car platform – and it will spearhead a series of radical new models that will expand Bentley’s range into new market segments. The Crewe manufacturer, owned by the Volkswagen Group, has committed to offering only battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) from 2030 onwards and it plans to meet that deadline by rolling out a family of new EVs in the second half of this decade.


Bentley EV Big line-up rethink starts with 2025 EV saloon

The first EV will take the form of a high-riding saloon. It will be based on a bespoke VW Group architecture, which is being developed by Project Artemis, an Audi-led initiative to develop an advanced EV platform.

Bentley EVs to target new sectors of the market Bentley bosses are not expecting a major leap in battery technology any time soon so the firm’s first electric models will be designed to match the range and weight limitations of current systems with Bentley’s luxury positioning. The result will be models that differ significantly from Bentley’s current line-up.

From 2026 onwards, all new Bentleys will be either fully electric or plug-in hybrid

Bentley chairman Adrian Hallmark told DriverCar the firm has yet to decide if future electric models would take on the nameplate and lineage of existing combustion-engined models. But he added: “Our position is to look at customers and segments. As well as moving to electric, we’re going to adapt our product range because the world is changing. “We want to appeal to more women and be more relevant in future urban environments which are very much different to today, and we want to appeal to modern luxury values which are different to ones from 20 years ago. We’ve already moved with the times but the times will change again in the next 10 to 15 years.

“Our product format, size and naming need to fit the product character and strategy based around customers and where we see those segments going. We love our current names. Maybe they’ll continue. But we’ll always follow customers, segments and values and find a name that fits.”

Although Hallmark said Bentley doesn’t foresee a “step change” in BEV technology, he suggested continuous improvements will help the firm to meet its range targets. From 2026 onwards, all new Bentley models will be either fully electric or plug-in hybrid, with the latter allowing existing models to continue.

“By 2025, we’re predicting 110kWh to 120kWh batteries will be available, which starts to put bigger cars in a position where you can get 400-500km [250-310 miles] range,” said Hallmark. “You need 150kWh-plus to get a full-size SUV to have the equivalent performance of a combustion-engined vehicle, which is why hybrids are so important in playing a part for bigger vehicles in the next five to 10 years.

“We think that BEVs with medium-size cars in that 2025-2030 range become feasible, and larger [electric] cars are post-2030, which is why 2030 is the date we plan to change everything.”

This suggests Bentley is unlikely to offer a traditional grand tourer such as the Continental or Flying Spur in its initial EV range, leaving electric versions of such models until battery technology develops. Instead, the focus will be on crossover-style cars that will complement the current range, sitting in a similar price bracket but with a different focus to suit the benefits of EVs – in a similar vein to, for example, the Porsche Panamera and Taycan. In that sense, they may be considered replacement vehicles, but for some Bentley owners they will also be offered as complementary models, as well as appealing to new customers to the brand.

Hallmark said he expects customer demand for EVs to undergo a step change rather than grow incrementally, with a likely “inflection point” globally around 2030. He also suggested that Bentley’s initial electric models are likely to complement the existing combustion-engined range, noting that “for our customers, [a Bentley EV] won’t be their only car. They will have charging capability at home, work and places they frequent, and as that infrastructure builds, it will become more usable. The characteristics of a BEV are so aligned to Bentley, so why wouldn’t we?”

Bentley to benefit from new EV platform The first EV to be produced in Crewe will showcase Bentley broadening into new markets. As previously reported by DriverCar, that model is set to adopt a saloon bodystyle but, similar to a Jaguar I-Pace, will stand slightly taller to accommodate the underfloor batteries.

However, it won’t push up to the extent of a traditional SUV. It will have styling inspired by the EXP 100 GT concept and its body will be honed for aerodynamic efficiency to optimise range.

Work is still in the conceptual phase, but Bentley has chosen that development path because it best hides the mass of the batteries. That 2025 car will be followed by what Bentley engineering boss Matthias Rabe called “a family of EVs” based on a “totally new platform”. Although Bentley has refused to comment, this refers to the new architecture being developed by sibling firm Audi’s Project Artemis.

The project – headed by Alex Hitzinger, former boss of Porsche’s endurance racing programme – is being run as a responsive motorsport team-style unit with considerable freedom. Its goal is to quickly develop a cutting-edge EV architecture that enables high levels of semi-autonomous technology and connectivity and the VW Group is investing heavily in software systems for the new platform. The architecture will first be used for a new flagship Audi, likely badged the A9 and due in 2024. Bentley will take the Artemis architecture and modify key elements to ensure it meets the brand’s positioning and needs, as it does with other models based on VW Group platforms. Hallmark said the firm’s EVs will “be on a group architecture which is a collection of core components, with a Bentley sub-architecture”.

Although Hallmark refused to confirm that Bentley will use the Artemis platform, he said the firm is “definitely going to be beneficiaries of early inclusion in the development of that new architecture. All of our needs are incorporated in the base engineering rather than coming to the party late and retro-changing it. But in terms of what it’s called, what it’s on and who’s doing what, I wouldn’t comment on that.” Hallmark noted that the higher average cost of luxury vehicles made the economics of selling an EV profitably easier for Bentley than mass-market brands. He said the biggest challenge with the new model remains the limitations of battery range.

“Aerodynamics, weight and rolling resistance are far more critical on battery-electric vehicles than combustion-engined ones on the range,” he said. “So we’ve got to make the car lighter net of the battery, and we’ve got to make it more slippery, so it will be a very, very different proposition.”

Speaking about progress on the 2025 EV, Hallmark added: “We’re not frozen in terms of the bodystyle and so on. But we know the technology we’re going to be using and the capabilities of that technology. We know the dimensions and the hard points that we’ve got to work with, but that’s only the basic elements, maybe 20% of the work.

“We’ve also worked on a lot of different options in terms of design of the first car, and over the next three to six months we’ll formalise those, lock and load and be ready to go. But we’re still in that searching phase, and not in the implementation phase yet.”

Hallmark also addressed reports that Audi could take control of Bentley as part of a VW Group reorganisation.

He noted that Bentley already has close links with Audi and Porsche due to the platforms used for various models and said: “The question is who owns that new electric architecture, and who is it best for us to align with? It’s not a big question and it’s more operational than anything else. It’s not a threat.”

Electrification is expected to herald new look for Bentley. Big, heavy models like the Bentayga will be the last to go electric. Architecture for a new Audi luxury EV will be adapted by Bentley.

Hallmark: inherent EV traits “are so aligned to Bentley”

Bentley’s debut EV, due in 2025, will be one of the first cars to use a new cutting-edge platform.

13:04
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Chris Rees
22:09
+1

Bentley’s plan to go fully electric means the clock is now ticking on its association with the VW Group’s W12 petrol engine, which began with the Continental GT in 2003. There was a sniffiness about it at the time from Bentley traditionalists, who preferred the more effortless torque of the firm’s 6.75-litre turbo V8. Well, that was certainly a wonderful engine too, but it wasn’t nearly as adaptable or clever as the compact, innovative W12. Some also said the W12 would never make big power reliably because of the inherent challenges of getting cool air to its inner banks of cylinders. Some problems. Three years ago, Bentley got 700 imperial horses from it, and 750lb ft, for the last-of-the-old-line Continental Supersports. I bet there’s quite a lot more to come from it now. The thing is, I’ve always preferred it at its most refined and unstressed. There’s a deliciously silken brand of unstoppableness about its low-range torque that works brilliantly in heavy cars. Electric motors will supply as much torque quite easily. They won’t approach nearly the same demure mechanical charm, though. 

Ezra Dyer
22:10

While Bentley has committed to offering only plug-in hybrid and electric powertrains from 2026 onwards, with EV-only models from 2030, chairman Adrian Hallmark said the firm is planning “an autumn rush” of new and updated versions of its combustion-engined cars in the next decade. Hallmark wouldn’t be drawn on details but said Bentley plans to “release a multitude of derivatives over the next three years” and will continue to invest in traditional powertrains, including plug-in hybrid variants. He said: “The problem with talking about strategy is that 10 years isn’t a long time but it’s short enough. When you talk about strategy, people will say: ‘Well, does that mean tomorrow you’re not building engines?’ Well, we are, and part of the discussion with governance is about how industry adapts. “You can’t just have a turnoff, turn-on approach. We’ve invested heavily in EU6 and EU7 hybrids and the industry has spent hundreds of billions between us investing in these new technologies. They’ve all delivered massive improvements versus previous technologies. “There is time to take full advantage of that investment and huge advances in product innovation that we’re throwing into the market in the next three to five years in the conventional technology space. “With the hybrids, we hope they will carry on beyond whatever the earlier banned date is for pure-combustion-engined vehicles. Because they’re the same architecture as combustion-engined vehicles, we’ll innovate in terms of connectivity, autonomous driving capability and more electrification. All of those things will be part of our plan before we get to 2030 when we’re full-electric.” Hallmark added that Bentley is still monitoring the development of green synthetic fuels – which could be vital for the airline industry – in the hope that they could allow the company to keep offering clean combustion-engined continuation models in the future. 

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