Now that it’s back in the black, Bentley is busily planning its move into the electric car segment. The company’s chief executive shed light on how his team will link the past and the future.
When it comes to new products, company boss Adrian Hallmark told Automotive News Europe that “it’s all about electrification.” The first Bentley with a plug is the Bentayga Hybrid unveiled at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show. Looking ahead, an electric car will join the range, but executives haven’t decided what form it will take, or what it will be powered by. Several options remain on the table. What’s certain is that Bentley won’t stuff an electric powertrain into one of the cars in its current portfolio.
“We could take one of the existing nameplates, and that could be the first electric car, but we wouldn’t take an existing car and try to fit batteries into it, because there’s a compromise from a range and efficiency point of view,” Hallmark explained. The challenge isn’t simply to make an electric Bentley; the British firm wants to ensure its first battery-powered model credibly lives up to the badge on its nose. That means it needs to blend effortless power with an acceptable amount of driving range.
The trade-off is that an electric Bentley would need a sizable battery pack, and designers would likely have to put the car on stilts to leave enough room in the cabin for people and gear if they were to pen an electric car in 2020. Solid-state battery technology will solve that problem when it’s ready for production, according to Hallmark, though he didn’t reveal whether he’s open to waiting for the new chemistry or if Bentley’s first electric car will ship with a lithium-ion battery pack.
Bentley isn’t in a rush to release its first battery-powered model. Regardless of what it looks like, or what it’s powered by, it’s not expected to arrive until 2025 at the earliest. The company notably needs to figure out if it can build an electric car on the same assembly line as its piston-powered models, or if it needs to invest in expanding its historic production facility in Crewe, England.
In the meantime, Hallmark predicted 2020 looks even brighter than 2019. “It would be hard not to have a record year,” he said. Bentley will release an updated Bentayga for the 2021 model year, and spy shots suggest the Speed variant of the Flying Spur will arrive packing plug-in hybrid power.