Nobody expects Bentley to be a major player for electric cars. But it’s fascinating to consider what the Volkswagen group’s ultra-luxe brand is thinking about its EV strategy.
First, a future electric Bentley will use the group’s Premium Platform Electric (PPE) architecture. Even more intriguing, Bentley’s leadership is talking about how energy-dense, solid-state battery technology could help the brand redefine future vehicle design.
Adrian Hallmark, Bentley CEO, told Automotive News:
I’m not saying that we are guaranteed to go solid state, but that is already on the radar within that mid-2020s period. They are about 30% lighter for the same power as lithium-ion. An I-pace has 720 kg (1,587 pounds) of batteries, so going to 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds) instead of 720kg makes a difference. Also, think about how that changes the packaging.
In other words, Hallmark is already thinking about how to use next-gen EV technology to redefine the interior space offered in an exclusive Bentley. He believes that today’s battery technology leads to raising the riding height of the vehicle — hence crossovers. But that’s not what Bentley has in mind.
With new battery technologies, it will be possible to make cars that are lower as well as cars that are taller because the increased power density will overcome the aero resistance.
The only clue of an actual design is the Bentley EXP 100 GT concept revealed last year (shown above and here).
Bentley EXP 100 GT concept
Hallmark doesn’t want to use an existing Bentley car and “try and fit batteries into it.” That’s too much of a compromise of range and efficiency, according to the chief executive.
Limited-edition, $200,000-plus Bentleys will not be small. But how its expansive interior will be designed related to its length could be redefined in the EV era, especially with smaller packs with high capacity.
We would always build it so that the interior is Bentley-sized and to Bentley’s standards. You don’t need as much overhang, but that also doesn’t mean we want to build a small car. We just don’t want to waste space on the outside either. We see the battery-electric vehicle architecture as being a liberator of that potential.
In June 2018, Volkswagen invested $100 million in QuantumScape, a solid-state battery startup. The company said it wanted to establish a production line for solid-state batteries by 2025.
BMW, General Motors, Hyundai, and Toyota are among other automakers pursuing solid-state batteries that promise an approximate doubling of EV range. Last month, Tim Grewe, director of GM’s global electrification and battery systems, said solid-state batteries haven’t “earned their way in yet,” but they “look very promising, and we are developing those as fast we can.”
As a new decade approaches, we expect to hear more talk about next-generation battery technologies, such as solid state. Unfortunately, the promise of a breakthrough is too often used by feet-dragging automakers to delay introducing EVs using today’s tech, which is more than capable of providing enough range, durability, and affordability.
What’s interesting about Bentley’s chatter about solid-state is its impact, not only on range, but on vehicle design, which is expected to radically change in a new era of electric mobility. Moreover, the discussion is coming from a VW brand. So Volkswagen’s sharing of tech from niche products could lead to more attainable, long-range, and spacious vehicles for you and me.
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