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Rapide name to continue as Aston Martin EV

Raging rapids: Aston Martin will use the Rapide four-door luxury sedan as a basis for its first electric vehicle (EV) dubbed RapidE from 2019.

DBX and Lagonda sedans to replace petrol Rapide as Aston moves moniker to EV

Aston Martin logo27 Mar 2017

By TUNG NGUYEN

ASTON Martin’s four-door Rapide sportscar will carry on as the British brand’s first fully electric vehicle (EV), but petrol-powered versions will be discontinued to make way for the DBX crossover and two large-sized Lagonda luxury sedans.

In Melbourne for the Australian Grand Prix, Aston Martin president and CEO Andy Palmer told journalists the Rapide, in its current form, would disappear over the next three years.

“Ultimately from a gasoline point of view – and I’m talking down the road, so I’m talking 2019 or 2020 – it morphs into either the DBX or the Lagonda,” he said.

“And the Rapide itself becomes our electric car, and you will see the first derivative of that electric car, obviously modified a bit… from 2019.

“Does it eventually die? Then yes, in 2019, 2020 – 2020 actually – it morphs into both the SUV and then eventually Lagonda, but as a nameplate it continues on as our first EV.”

However, Mr Palmer stressed that the Rapide is “not going away anytime soon”, and the recent reveal of the AMR-tuned version during this year’s Geneva motor show – billed as the world’s fastest four-door four-seater – “is an important position for us”.

While reports from 2015 indicated the emissions free Aston sedan, dubbed RapidE, will feature close to 745kW of power and around 322km of driving range, no new drivetrain information has surfaced, but Mr Palmer confirmed the EV system would be developed in-house.

“Actually we’re going to do the RapidE by ourselves because it uses the legacy electrical system,” he said.

44 center imageLeft: Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer

“You can look at the RapidE in three different lenses. One way to look at it is a defensive strategy, that allows me to keep the V12 alive and allows me to de-risk selling cars in China, that’s really a glass half empty point of view.

“The half full point of view is, I reckon there is room for the first luxury brand to take a car to places like California and have something that sits above a Tesla.

“And the kind of in between is, learn how to do electric cars, because I know from my experience that doing an electric car is hard and everybody makes mistakes, so rather than simply buying a powertrain from somebody, we’re encouraging our engineers to do it by themselves, because that’s the quickest way they will learn about the technology.”

Mr Palmer also revealed that the agreement with Daimler for AMG engines was signed to gain access to the EV technologies developed by the Stuttgart-based company.

“By the way we did it for the engine, but the main reason for the deal with Daimler was for the electrical architecture because that’s where all the breakthroughs are right now and I don’t have a billion dollars to spend a year on advanced research,” he said.

“So to buy the most advanced electrical system, I believe, out there right now, which is on the Daimler S-Class, if I can hide it away in my car so that the customer doesn’t notice, that’s the real value of that deal with Daimler.”

Where the Daimler electrical system will show up first was not revealed, but the technology could make its way into the two Lagonda sedans and DBX SUV as a petrol-electric hybrid or full emissions-free system, or as a performance-boosting set-up in one of Aston Martin’s sportscars.

However, when asked if Aston Martin would throw its hat in the ring in the autonomous vehicle race, Mr Palmer bluntly answered that the brand was “not in a rush”.

“An Aston is to be driven,” he said. “The only thing I would say is that there are some technologies that are useful to a sportscar. Automatic parking, eventually valet parking, round view monitor because the visibility is not that great. So those are, I would say, technologies that are useful in a sportscars.

“Where that changes is on the Lagonda because that is a chauffeur-driven car, and you can imagine a higher adoption rate (of autonomous technologies).

“But we’re not going to be chasing autonomous technology. We can access that technology through Daimler, but we won’t be adopting it at the same speed they’ll be adopting it.” While self-driving technology is not an avenue Mr Palmer will steer Aston Martin, he did, however, state his intentions for the marque to be a leader in vehicle cyber security.

“The one area I’d like to lead on though is cyber,” he said.

“You know everyone’s on this arms race to introduce an autonomous car by 2020, frankly I’d rather make sure no one can hack my cars. So, we’re doing a lot of our own research on that cyber security.”

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