Ever since James Bond drove a silver Aston Martin DB5 equipped with machine guns, an ejector seat, and metal shredding wheel nuts, Astons have been known as silky, slinky toys for wealthy British gentlemen who wished to be seen as dashing and debonair. The company’s 12 cylinder Rapide sedan is the epitome of what an Aston Martin with 4 doors and room for 5 should be — a potent chariot for the powerful.
Speaking at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance conference this week, Aston’s CEO, Andy Palmer, talked about the next Rapide. “We’re a V-12 engine company. Project that into the future. Do I go the way of the rest of the industry and downsize the engine? Do I see Aston Martin with a three cylinder engine? God forbid! You’ve got to do something radical. Electric power gives you that power. It gives you that torque.”
The British company is working on a battery-powered version of the Aston Martin Rapide sports car that will be available as early as at the end of 2017 followed by a new electric DBX crossover, Palmer said. He promised both cars will uphold Aston Martin’s traditions by embodying “power, beauty and soul.” Then he went on to offer a hint about the next Rapide. “We’re talking about an electric Aston Martin with between 800 and 1,000 horsepower — imagine having all that torque on demand.” It’s certainly something nice to think about.
Palmer’s vision for the future of Aston Martin takes into account the plunging costs for electric cars and how stricter emissions regulations will eat away at the economics of conventional fossil engines. Palmer said it’s inevitable that the entire industry will shift over to electricity, if only because it’s the most plausible way to deliver the power drivers expect. The company has no interest in competing with Tesla’s more affordable Model 3, Palmer said. It wants to avoid anything “vanilla in the middle.”
Then Palmer offered his opinions on the future of the car business. All carmakers face the same challenges, he says — how to get millennials back into cars, how to integrate self-driving technology, and how to cope with emissions rules. “It means our customers aren’t going to trust us for a while. It also means that time is up for the diesel. In markets where you have a lot of installed capacity, diesel will go through a slow death.”
Hybrid gasoline engines that incorporate battery power will become widespread, he thinks. Over time, attention will shift toward fully electric cars, whose costs will plunge as automakers improve the technology. Palmer scoffed at the idea that hydrogen fuel cells will become widespread, noting there are few places where they can refuel. “We have to overcome the range anxiety [with electric cars],” he said. “But that’s much better than the range panic that you’re going to get from having only four hydrogen stations in the UK. There are [charging stations] everywhere.”
Having Aston Martins featured in movies about Britain’s super-spy, 007, hasn’t hurt the company’s image one bit. Palmer things James Bond might even drive an electric Aston in a future film. “It’s an awfully good getaway vehicle,” he said. “I don’t think James really cares what the power train is as long as it’s fast and beautiful.” Most future Aston Martin customers would probably agree.
Photo Credit:Aston Martin