By the time Bentley launches its first electric car in 2025, it will be very late to the party. So how will the august British luxury brand distinguish its electric car from existing models? One answer might be battery tech. In an interview with Automotive News Europe, CEO Adrian Hallmark said Bentley may use solid-state batteries in its first electric car. While several companies have discussed using this new battery design, none have managed to put it into production so far.
“I’m not saying we are guaranteed to go solid-state, but that is already on the radar within that mid-2020s period,” Hallmark said. Proponents of solid-state batteries claim they will offer better performance than current lithium-ion batteries, which could be crucial to making an electric Bentley work.
Bentley builds big, heavy cars that emphasize luxury over efficiency. Achieving sufficient range will require a massive battery pack, increasing cost and piling on even more pounds. But solid-state batteries are about 30 percent lighter for a given amount of energy storage than lithium-ion batteries, Hallmark said.
That ability to store more energy in a given volume is what makes solid-state batteries so attractive to automakers. BMW and Bentley parent Volkswagen have both invested in companies developing solid-state batteries, while Toyota is working on the technology in-house. Fisker claims solid-state batteries will allow a future electric luxury car to achieve 500 miles of range, but the company’s first production car will use conventional lithium-ion batteries.
Hallmark didn’t offer many other details, but said an electric powertrain will allow designers to emphasize interior space without increasing the size of the car itself. He cited the Jaguar I-Pace, which he claimed has similar interior volume to a Land Rover Range Rover, despite being appreciably smaller. Hallmark did not say whether the Bentley electric car would be a crossover, like the I-Pace, or a different body style. He gave a noncommittal answer when asked if Bentley would use the Premium Platform Electric (PPE) architecture used for the Porsche Taycan and upcoming Audi E-Tron GT, two other high-end Volkswagen Group electric cars.
Bentley previously offered a hint at what its future electric cars could be like with the EXP 100 GT, a concept car built to celebrate the automaker’s 100th anniversary. Ostensibly designed for the year 2035, the EXP 100 GT uses four electric motors — one for each wheel. Bentley didn’t use the term “solid-state” in any of its press materials, but did say future battery tech would give the EXP 100 GT a range of 435 miles.
Something like the EXP 100 GT could make it into production eventually, but not anytime soon. Bentley will focus on hybrids first, adding a hybrid powertrain to every model by 2023 — starting with the Bentayga SUV.