Just over a month ago at the Geneva Auto Show, former Nissan executive turned Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer shocked the world by unveiling the Aston Martin DBX Concept car: a one-hundred percent all-electric grand tourer with all-wheel drive and the kind of promised performance and range which would put it in direct competition with the Tesla Model S luxury sedan.
While the bold concept car from James Bond’s favourite automaker certainly turned heads however, the DBX was described as a hint at the direction the luxury marque would be heading in the future, not a near-production vehicle.
Yet as the folks over at Autoexpress learned at last week’s New York Auto Show, Aston Martin may be heading towards an all-electric car a little sooner than we’d anticipated.
The news comes from an exclusive interview between Palmer and the British publication in which Palmer described a potential all-electric version of the Rapide luxury sedan which could be ready to hit the roads in two or three years’ time.
Palmer, a known fan of electric vehicles, was at the forefront of Nissan’s push of the LEAF electric car to market. He was also heavily involved in Nissan’s efforts to engage with LEAF owners in hot U.S. states surrounding premature battery ageing at specially-convened Nissan LEAF town hall meetings.
And it’s that belief in electric vehicles which seems to already be shining through at Aston Martin, where he was joined in October by fellow brit and former Tesla VP of communications and marketing Simon Sproule. Together, they and the rest of the Aston Martin team are finally focused on electric vehicles.
“This project is born out of fun and born out of necessity,” Palmer admitted, referring to the ever-tightening global fuel economy standards that most luxury and high-performance automakers are finding increasingly tough to meet.
“Electric power gives us the performance we want, although you won’t have the V12 noise — you’ll have something that works just as well for a luxury vehicle — silence,” he said. “And you’ll have zero emissions.”
Referring to an engineering feasibility study already well underway in the UK into the potential for a plug-in Aston, Autoexpress says there has already been a full exchange between Aston Martin and its hired engineering specialist concerning computer design data and even mockups of battery placement.
That battery placement — down the spine of the car and under the hood where the V12 sits in a gasoline-powered Rapide — would leave the rear of the car free for luggage and the on-board power electronics. Drive meanwhile, would come from front and rear-mounted electric motors to give it all-wheel drive capability, with a promised range in excess of 200 miles per charge.
In talking specs, Palmer indicated that a four-wheel drive electric Rapide made sense, giving it as much as 1000 brake horsepower (745 kilowatts). That’s substantially more than the range-topping Tesla Model S P85D, although we note the Tesla Model S’s under-floor battery pack does offer a lower-centre of gravity than the proposed battery placement in the rumored Aston Martin Rapide plug-in.
With its gasoline-version well out of the reach of most car buyers, it’s conceivable that a production Aston Martin Rapide with all of the option boxes ticked could easily tip the quarter million dollar mark. For that money, we’re guessing many would-be customers would opt for a Tesla Model S instead.
But in the luxury high-end prestige markets of the super-rich — where the name of the car is as important as what’s under the hood — we’ve no doubt that a suitably-specced all-electric Aston would sell.
All that remains is for Aston Martin to make it.
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