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Aston to electrify, but ‘lot of life left’ in V12

Hybrid hero: Aston has confirmed that its forthcoming Vanquish mid-engined series-production supercar will be powered by a twin-turbo V6 hybrid powertrain developed in-house.

Full range of electric, hybrid Aston Martins on way, but combustion still crucial

Aston Martin logo22 Mar 2019

ASTON Martin is committed to offering electrified variants across its entire model line-up by 2025, but the British sports-luxury car-maker is leaving it to its reborn Lagonda brand to be the torchbearer for all-electric power across the range. 
 
It also has no plans to walk away from combustion engines “any time soon” and believes the V12 – deemed an integral part of Aston’s business – has a “healthy future” and “a lot of life left”.
 
Aston is preparing to introduce its first all-electric vehicle, the special-edition 450kW/950Nm Rapide E sedan, to global markets later this year, while its forthcoming Valkyrie hypercar, which is limited to 150 units and will not be homologated for road use in Australia, uses a Cosworth-built 6.5-litre V12 engine and Rimac-sourced hybrid technology to produce 865kW/900Nm.
 
The company has also developed its first in-house hybrid powertrain in the form of a circa-800kW twin-turbocharged V6 and electric motor combination that will debut on the just-announced limited-run sub-Valkyrie hyper-model (codenamed AM-RB 003) in late 2021, and Aston’s first series-production mid-engined supercar, the reborn Vanquish, will employ a detuned version from 2022. 
 
However, there are no moves to banish the use of internal combustion engines until regulations force the company’s hand later this century.
 
In an interview with GoAuto in Melbourne last week, Aston Martin Lagonda vice-president and chief marketing officer Simon Sproule said the car-maker would have an electrified option across the entire Aston Martin range – as opposed to Lagonda, which is returning in 2022 as an all-electric marque – but there is no timeframe for Aston to migrate to full-electric.
 
“No. We’ve always said that by mid of next decade, everything will be either electrified or hybridised,” he said. 
 
“I think with the Aston Martin brand, we are a ways away off from all-electric, from only electric, for the brand – I don’t see that any time soon.
 
“But Lagonda will be pure-electric, and it allows us actually to sit nicely with (hybrid) sportscars and then Lagonda being a very differentiated brand.”
 
Asked whether the move to downsize to its own V6 meant the days of V12 and other higher-displacement engines were numbered, Mr Sproule said: “The market and legislation will decide. We still see a healthy future for V12 engines. 
 
“In our segment, I think V12 is a product differentiator that luxury players have and premium players don’t. So I think there’s a lot of life left in V12 engines.”
 
As Aston Martin’s first electric vehicle, the Rapide E – limited to 155 units and rumoured to have a starring role in the next 007 James Bond blockbuster – is being developed in partnership with Williams Advanced Engineering and is capable of reaching 60mph (96.5km/h) in less than 4.0 seconds via two electric motors mounted on the rear axle. 
 
Its front-positioned battery pack, mounted where the 6.0-litre V12 would otherwise be placed, offers a driving range of more than 320km, while its recharging regime will include class-first compatibility with an 800-volt outlet capable of delivering 100kW or higher.
 
The Lagonda SUV will be the next all-electric vehicle to be produced – from 2022 – and stands as the first EV from Aston Martin built from the ground up, which allows significant packaging benefits as shown by the near-production concept presented at the Geneva motor show earlier this month.
 
Mr Sproule would not confirm the extent to which the all-electric powertrain was being developed in-house, nor specify which partner Aston Martin is collaborating with on the technology, but its established links with Daimler – which supplies traditional powertrains (and electronics) and has a five per cent stake in Aston Martin Lagonda – places the German auto giant in the box seat.
 
“All we’ll say is that if you look at the core competency of a car-maker, it’s both the outside – it’s design – but it’s also powertrain,” Mr Sproule said. 
 
“We announced in Geneva the first all-new Aston Martin V6 engine – if you’re a historian, that’s the first ground-up all-new Aston Martin engine since 1969 with the V8 that went into the DBS – so clearly having the ability to do our own powertrains is really important.
 
“Electrification is a little bit different, but if you are taking the company from where it is today, only producing internal combustion engines, to a company that is going to be hybridised and electrified by mid-decade, you need to develop that core competency internally.
 
“So, we’ll see. There are a lot of very good suppliers. I don’t see that we are going to go necessarily into the battery-producing business ourselves, but ultimately as battery technology evolves, cell chemistry and so forth, we are going to be looking at what is the right mix for us.”
 
Asked whether Daimler was the natural supplier for its electrified powertrains going forward, given the existing relationship, Mr Sproule said: “Look, it’s a potential. 
 
“Our relationship with Daimler is that when we’re looking at a new project, we can go to them and say, ‘Right, we’re going to do an SUV…’ or ‘We’re going to do an electric car...’ or ‘We’re going to do a sportscar – what have you got in the Daimler realm that may or may not work?’
 
“And then go through the evaluation process and if there’s something there that makes sense, we’re in business, and if it fits the performance objective then we can take it, and if it doesn’t then we can go elsewhere.”

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