First Bentley signs up to be a high-riding sedan in 2025

Bentley EV saloon render 2025 - static front

How Autocar thought Bentley's girlish electric car might look like

British firm aims to push eco-credentials with cutting-edge electrical technology

Bentley has begun conceptual work on a new high-riding saloon that it is preparing to launch as its first all-electric car. The radical model will further the firm's ambition to establish itself as the most environmentally friendly and sustainable Premium LED luxury car manufacturer in the world.

In their quest to establish global leadership in these areas, Bentley bosses want to follow this year's launch of the brand's first hybrid model, revealing its first electric car by 2025. This date is already challenging designers and engineers as they struggle to provide a vehicle with a sufficient range for customers who are looking for a great touring experience on the performance capabilities of today's vehicles.

Large investments in battery technology are already helping to lower costs and improve battery capacity. However, it is believed that the next tangible step forward will come when solid-state batteries reach production, something that should not happen until near the end of the decade. As such, Bentley is likely to launch its first electric car using a more mature version of current lithium-ion battery technology.

However, Bentley CEO Adrian Hallmark has hinted at Autocar that his team has already hit on one possible solution to develop a car with similarities but more extreme than the Jaguar i-Pace. This car combines a traditional sedan shape with a large sport body to accommodate the battery without creating a full SUV format that is aerodynamically inefficient and therefore shortens range.

The upcoming Jaguar XJ and related J-tempo models, plus Land Rover – dubbed Road Rover but not expected to carry that name into production – are set to follow a similar path, although the Bentley interpretation is slated to set new benchmarks for the industry.

“If we want to launch an electric car in the mid-2020s, then it either has to be smaller than cars today or the same size but not vertically, and smaller is not an attractive solution, as it suggests a lower price segment,” Hallmark said. “Prediction—battery technology will be moving forward again by that date and that will put us on the edge of what we think we need to give buyers: 300-350 miles of range, or enough to cruise at an average of 65mph for five hours.

“We have to look at how we can deliver slippery machines with a profile that gets the most out of it aerodynamically in order to deliver on that promise.”

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In due course, the 2025 remarks and calling card confirm the growing evidence that the first Bentley EV crown is the environmental and sustainability leader that the company has been building in the direction of recent years.

Bentley's cru plant was certified as carbon neutral late last year, emphasizing an increasingly holistic approach to sustainability that extended to the preparation of honey from beehives.

The EXP 100 GT concept car - revealed last year and in honor of the firm's centenary, looking forward to its next 100 years - also hinted at the powertrain, materials and production methods that Bentley is working on.

The EXP 100 GT is an electric powertrain that uses four 201-335bhp electric motors and an extended torque distribution system totaling between 800bhp and 1340bhp to all four wheels, depending on trim level. Combined peak torque is just over 1100lb ft, delivering an estimated 0-62mph in 2.5sec and a top speed of 186mph. While these numbers should be viewed as long-term goals, they hint at different levels of performance that Bentley engineers believe will become possible over time.

In addition, the interior of the EXP 100 GT features the best innovative use of materials including natural wood, glass, fabrics and leather. Some of the concept materials have already been put into production at Bacalar, such as paint pigment rice, sheep's wool and Riverwood.

Bentley is well on its way to developing alternatives to the interior styles that have dominated its cars for decades, albeit coupled with technical advances such as biometric seating to monitor and potentially improve occupant well-being.

“Bentleys have very little to fear from the electric future,” Hallmark said. “Indeed, many aspects of electrification define Bentley.

“Of course, today in GT, you can hit 207mph, but that doesn't mean that very many of our customers drive very often at that speed, if at all. We are not a brand that is defined in any way as offering a hypercar or a supercar.

“What they do every time they go out is super-sophistication, ease of pace and total comfort. Electrification will only amplify all of these, so for customers, the trade-off is about 12 cylinders per 2000 or so electric cells. Everything else has improved.”

Hallmark noted he hoped Bentley would be able to pioneer any major battery or electric architecture breakthroughs in the Volkswagen Group, of which Bentley is a member, due to its relatively small scale and its customers, who are traditionally willing to pay to be on the cutting edge of technology.

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“At Bentley, we want to build 11000 to 12000 vehicles a year for a global market of about 85 million,” Hallmark said. “Our delivery values ​​are the very best money can buy, and this puts us in a position where we can lead in whatever direction we're going to.

“Yes, one goal is to lead in electrification in the elite segment, but we also believe that sustainability can be much more than just electrification. Our customers are willing to pay premiums if they can buy a vehicle that is truly carbon neutral, and that is now the core mission of the company.”

The hallmark also highlighted Volkswagen Group's $100m (£78.5m) investment in California battery specialist QuantumScape as a likely path for the brand to become a leader in solid-state battery development, which he described as "the game is changing" in terms of energy density they could deliver at the same production cost.

“Once solid-state batteries can be productionised, the growth in capacity will be exponential,” he said. “Of course they will initially be at the top of the price scale, but is the automaker in the [Volkswagen] group in the best position with customers to bear that cost? I really hope that Bentley can be at the forefront, which is quite logical that we should be.”

The calling card also confirmed that emissions regulations and customer tastes mean that Bentley's iconic W12 will be phased out, though he didn't specify a time frame. Asked if the 12-cylinder engine had a limited life, he said, “Yes, absolutely. For 100 years we have been trying to make engines bigger and more powerful. For the next 10 years, we are going to try and make them disappear.

“We want to do this in a progressive and customer-centric way. We don't hate engines, but we love the idea of ​​electrification. We offer hybrid systems along with combustion engine options for every model through 2023.”

Jim Holder and Mike Duff

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