Last month, Bentley announced plans to go fully electric by 2030. By 2026, it plans to offer a lineup that is exclusively plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles. And four years after that, the PHEV versions will be completely phased out. That means if you want a non-hybrid Bentley, you need to buy before 2026.
Beyond just going electric, Bentley also says it will be “end-to-end carbon neutral.” Its Crewe factory was certified as carbon-neutral last year, the next step is to ensure that all of its suppliers meet certain sustainability targets before the end of the year. And after making a number of other changes, Bentley also claims its factory will be “climate positive” by 2030.
Transitioning to a fully electric lineup and ensuring its factory is environmentally friendly won’t be cheap. But it doesn’t sound like Bentley is doing this because it’s now run by tree-hugging hippies. It sees sustainability as a business opportunity.
Electric cars are the future
Adrian Hallmark, Bentley’s chairman, recently sat down with Autocar to talk about the ultra-luxury brand’s EV future. In the interview, he revealed a number of interesting tidbits such as the fact that Bentley still hasn’t decided whether or not the electric models will get traditional Bentley names. But one of the most interesting quotes explains how he sees electric Bentleys attracting new customers.
According to Hallmark, “We want to appeal to more women and be more relevant in future urban environments which are very much different to today, and we want to appeal to modern luxury values which are different to ones from 20 years ago. We’ve already moved with the times but the times will change again in the next 10 to 15 years.”
How far will an electric Bentley go?
Hallmark also said he doesn’t expect battery technology to improve much over the next couple of years. Instead, expect Bentley’s initial EV range to be in line with what you see today. But the first electric Bentley should at least beat the Porsche Taycan’s current range.
“By 2025, we’re predicting 110 kWh to 120 kWh batteries will be available, which starts to put bigger cars in a position where you can get 400-500 km. range,” said Hallmark. That works out to about 250-310 miles. But an all-electric Bentayga will still have to wait, as will Bentley’s smallest cars.
“You need 150 kWh-plus to get a full-size SUV to have the equivalent performance of a combustion-engined vehicle, which is why hybrids are so important in playing a part for bigger vehicles in the next five to 10 years,” he said. “We think that BEVs with medium-size cars in that 2025-2030 range become feasible, and larger cars are post-2030, which is why 2030 is the date we plan to change everything.”
Six-figure EVs actually make money
Considering how long Bentley’s been in business and how much heritage it has, it might not initially make sense why Bentley would take such a risk on new tech. 2030 isn’t exactly soon, but it’s certainly more aggressive than some of the plans we’ve heard from other automakers. According to Hallmark, it actually makes more sense for Bentley to go electric than other, more mainstream brands.
That’s because Bentleys are already ridiculously expensive, making the cost of the battery pack less of a factor in the overall price. Plus, wealthier customers are less price-sensitive. For them, paying a little more for a Bentley EV is like a normal person adding guac to a Chipotle burrito even though it costs extra.
But what would probably upset Bentley’s customers is if its EVs don’t have a long enough range. And getting to a satisfactory range will require more than big batteries. “Aerodynamics, weight and rolling resistance are far more critical on battery-electric vehicles than combustion-engined ones on the range. So we’ve got to make the car lighter net of the battery, and we’ve got to make it more slippery, so it will be a very, very different proposition,” Hallmark said.