Aston Martin is working on a four-door pure electric car with 1,000bhp, which could go into production by 2020 as a way for the sports car maker to reduce the average CO2 emissions of its range.
Speaking to The Telegraph at the 2015 Goodwood Festival of Speed, Aston CEO Andy Palmer explained that a prototype of such a car exists so that engineers can work out where to place the batteries in order to maintain a 50/50 weight distribution.
In the past Aston has used the Cygnet, a small city car based on a Toyota, as a way of reducing its average CO2 emissions, but Palmer believes that a flagship electric model would make more sense. “On my watch we are never going to put a diesel in an Aston. And I don’t think the Cygnet was the right thing to do,” he said. “I think something like an electric car would be interesting, to sit squarely above a Tesla. Most people who buy Teslas are buying fully loaded ones, so it implies there’s room for that.”
As a former Nissan executive, Palmer has experience with launching electric cars such as the Leaf. “I’m a great advocate of electric vehicles, not for fuel economy, but for performance,” he said. “We are working on a car that would look like a four-wheel-drive, 1,000bhp Rapide. There is a prototype running around. It’s not a formal part of our six-year plan but it might have to become part of it if we have a regulatory issue.”
The six-year, or “Second Century” Plan (the company celebrated its centenary in 2013) involves an overhaul of the current line-up that is intended to at long last make the company financially sustainable. It will begin with a new version of the DB9 next year, powered either by Aston’s V12 petrol engine, or a twin-turbocharged Mercedes V8 (the German company is a small shareholder in Aston). Both manual and automatic gearboxes are likely.
New versions of the Vantage and Vanquish will follow, plus Palmer has confirmed that there will be a hybrid four-door model along the lines of the DBX crossover that was shown at this year’s Geneva motor show.
The final element of the plan will be an extension of the Lagonda brand, which the company revived last year. Originally intended only for the Middle East, the limited run of 200 Lagondas has since been made available worldwide which, says Palmer “sets the platform for bringing back Lagonda properly later on”.
Key to the success of Lagonda, he says, will be a new electrical architecture. “It’s the hardest car to engineer because that class of car you’re competing with Rolls-Royce and Bentley and they both sit on very sophisticated platforms. We now take technology from Mercedes-Benz, and that gives us access to many of their sophisticated systems such as lane keeping assist, plus radar front and rear, which we don’t have.”
Does this mean we are also heading towards self-driving technology on an Aston Martin too? Palmer: “No. I see some things, for example, self-park, being quite useful on an Aston because visibility is a little challenging. But other things like lane keeping and distance control I think tend to take away from what the customer wants.”
Palmer was driving the first of 100 limited edition Vantage GT12s at the Festival of Speed, a £250,000 road racer that sold out prior to anybody seeing it. He might have the weight of Aston Martin’s future on his shoulders, but he’s clearly relishing the role, and the enthusiasm people hold for his company’s cars. “What’s nice about the Festival of Speed is that you see all the kids falling in love with cars,” he said. “In the industry we tend to talk about kids falling out of love with cars. This event restores your faith.”