During his long-standing career at Nissan, British auto-industry executive Andy Palmer was a vocal and active electric car advocate. During his final years at the company as Nissan’s Cheif Planning Officer before becoming CEO of British luxury marque Aston Martin, Palmer was responsible for global product planning, global program management and communications.
He even once stood up against electric car skeptics in 2011, calling claims that electric cars were more dirty than gasoline cars ‘bullshit.’
Since becoming CEO of Aston Martin, we’ve already seen Palmer’s influence at play with the release of an all-electric concept car at this year’s Geneva Motor Show as well as promise of an all-electric Aston Martin Rapide some time in the near future.
Speaking at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance Summit this week, Palmer reiterated that promise, laying out a future where its luxury high-performance cars ditch gasoline in favour of clean, renewable electricity.
Holding on to the 102 year-old company’s core traditions of embodying “power, beauty and soul” in each and every vehicle it makes, Palmer was clear about his views concerning the future of the firm.
“I believe the future is electric and that comes down to strong economics. We have to overcome the range anxiety,” he said. “We’re talking about an electric Aston Martin with between 800 and 1,000 horsepower — imagine having all that torque on demand,” he continued.
Referring to Aston Martin’s current powertrains of choice — powerful, gas-guzzling V-12 internal combustion engines — Palmer acknowledged that tightening emissions regulations and fuel economy requirements meant that the British firm needed to look elsewhere for a drivetrain that was ready and capable to power the brand into the new millennium.
“We’re a V-12 engine company,” he said. “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.”
When questioned about the other potential options for power plants — namely diesel power and hydrogen fuel cell technology — Palmer was blunt.
“[Dieselgate] means our customers aren’t going to trust us for a while. It also means that time is up for the diesel,” he said, referencing the recent VW dieselgate scandal. “In markets where you have a lot of installed capacity, diesel will go through a slow death.”
He reserved his most scathing comments for hydrogen technology, pointing out that range anxiety was nothing compared to the feelings of not being able to find a hydrogen filling station.
“We have to overcome the range anxiety [of 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 plugs everywhere.”
We should point out at this point that Palmer’s figures are slightly amiss here. There are indeed more than four hydrogen filling stations in the UK at the time of writing — about twelve the last time we looked. But the sentiment is still the same: at a push, you can refill an electric car at a wall outlet; a hydrogen fuel cell car can only be refuelled at a hydrogen filling station.
While Palmer’s interview doesn’t disclose anything new about Aston Martin’s plans to bring an all-electric Rapide to market by the end of 2017, it does show that Palmer’s approach to electric vehicles is pushing the previously struggling brand into completely new territories. Tie in the unconfirmed rumor from a few weeks ago which suggested that Aston Martin may be in talks with Tesla Motors to adopt its powerful DC Supercharger technology for us in its cars, and we think exciting times lay ahead for James Bond’s favourite automaker.
Which brings us nicely to Ian Fleming’s most famous character — and his love of fine British craftsmanship. Save for a few films, James Bond has always driven an Aston Martin — and Palmer thinks that a switch to electric wouldn’t change that for 007.
“It’s an awfully good getaway vehicle,” he said of the 800-100 horsepower all-electric Rapide in development at the company. “I don’t think james really cares what the power train is as long as it’s fast and beautiful.”
Will we be seeing an all-electric Aston Martin soon? Will you be tempted to buy one? And which luxury automaker will be next to adopt an all-electric future?
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