Last week, we brought you the news that pro electric car Aston Martin CEO and former Nissan executive Andy Palmer had yet again publicly promised that an all-electric version of the luxury Aston Martin Rapide sports sedan would soon hit the market.
Today, we got to see what that car could look like for the first time with the unveiling of the Aston Martin RapidE concept at a special event at Lancaster House, London, timed to coincide with a meeting between Their Royal Highnesses Prince William, Duke of Cambridge; Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping.
Part of a full state visit to the UK by President X, today’s meeting, part of a wider summit held by the UK Government to encourage more Chinese businesses to invest in the island nation as well as encourage more tourists and students from China to visit or study there, also marked the official signing of an agreement between Aston Martin and Chinese investment group ChinaEquity.
Under the new agreement, ChinaEquity will assist Aston Martin in exploring the development of the RapidE all-electric concept car into a production vehicle, with the ultimate goal of bringing it to production in around two years’ time, although we note that should it enter into production, Aston Martin expects assembly to take place at its global headquarters in Gaydon Warwickshire.
Sadly, full details of the RapidE haven’t been released, but based on what we’ve heard from Palmer in the past, the RapidE should mix a range of around 300 miles per charge high-end performance. While 0-60 times haven’t been discussed, Palmer has quoted an estimated power output of between 800 and 1,000 horsepower (600 to 745 kilowatts), meaning what we’d presume will be Tesla-like acceleration.
Recent rumors also suggest that should it enter production, Aston Martin could license Tesla’s Supercharger technology from the Californian automaker under its quid-pro-quo open source offer to the automotive industry. If so, this would result in the RapidE being the first non-Tesla vehicle to make use of Tesla’s Supercharger network, recharging from empty to full in double-quick time.
Accompanying today’s announcement was a short teaser video from the luxury British automaker showing the Aston Martin RapidE slowly driving over the camera and disappearing relatively silently into the distance. Built in collaboration with Williams Advanced Engineering — the same company known for its involvement in both Formula E and Formula 1 — the RapidE prototype has an impressive heritage but lets very little slip during the short video.
As the car passes overhead, we note a distinct lack of rear differential, drivetrain or even motor. In their place a simple crossmember structure can be seen — which we’d assume would be replaced in a production version of the car with a redesigned floor plan and suspension system designed to give as much luggage space as possible.
Why is this important? It indicates that unless the Aston Martin RapidE prototype is a front-wheel drive car (and we seriously doubt that given Aston Martin’s love of rear-wheel drivetrains) the chances are the RapidE prototype uses the exact same all-wheel drive system as the Aston Martin DBX prototype the British automaker unveiled earlier this year in Geneva.
The DBX featured a quartet of independent in-wheel motors, producing around 800 horsepower, around the same figure quoted personally by Palmer for the RapidE. If this arrangement makes it into production with a 2018 model-year Aston Martin, it could become the first production vehicle to use in-wheel motors.
Given the RapidE prototype looks to use the same in-wheel motors as the DBX concept, there’s a significant chance it also uses the same lithium-sulfur battery as the DBX concept. While lithium-sulfur battery chemistry offers a higher energy density than current generation lithium-ion technology (and thus a larger range per charge for any car using it for its battery pack) current life-cycles are lower than lithium-ion battery cells, meaning fewer recharge cycles are possible before a loss of capacity occurs.
Since we have no official word on the battery pack in the RapidE prototype however, that particular line of discussion should be saved for a future date.
The only other thing we note — again by our own observation rather than official methods — is what looks like some form of inductive charging pad on the underside of the Aston Martin RapidE prototype as it drives over the camera in the video above. While inductive charging technology is still in its infancy, it’s worth noting that Palmer was instrumental in the development of the Infiniti LE electric concept car during his time at Nissan, which promised inductive charging technology as one of its many features.
For now however, we’ll just have to wait for more information to find out what Aston Martin and its new Chinese investment partner has in store for the first production Aston Martin to run solely on electricity in the company’s history.
In the meantime, we’d like to know what you think of the car and its potential specifications in the Comments below.
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