Fully Charged has released a video featuring the upcoming Aston Martin Rapide E, which will go into low-volume production from Q4 of this year. Starting from £250,000, the Rapide E is clearly not an affordable EV by any means, but nevertheless is notable in signaling a clear move towards electrification from one of the auto industry’s best known historic luxury sports car brands.
The Rapide E by Fully Charged/YouTube
Fully Charged’s Jonny Smith got a ride in a pre-production validation prototype of the Rapide E for two laps of the Monaco Grand Prix circuit ahead of this year’s Formula-E race, held in May. At the wheel was Aston Martin’s professional endurance racer (and 3 time Le Mans winner) Darren Turner.
Here are the key specs of the Rapide E:
- Built on the Aston Martin Racing (AMR) variant of the existing 4-door Rapide combustion vehicle
- Just 155 units to be built, starting Q4 2019, in Aston Martin’s new St Athan facility in south Wales
- Powertrain technology developed in partnership with Williams Advanced Engineering
- Priced from £250,000 (~€279,000, ~$317,000), up from the Rapide AMR sibling’s £195,000
- 800 volt powertrain architecture, 65 kWh battery (5,600 lithium-ion cells), dual rear motors
- 449 kW (610 PS) power output and 950Nm (701 ft lb) — powertrain designed to minimize thermal throttling
- Top speed of 155 mph (~250 km/h), 0–62 mph (0–100 km/h) in under 4 seconds
- Targeting 200 miles (WLTP) range
- 22 kW AC charging in 3 to 3.5 hours
- 100 kW (@800V) CCS gives 0–80% charge in 35 minutes, or ~1 hour on CCS 50 kW (@400V)
This will be the final iteration of Aston’s Rapide model (dating from 2010), giving it a fully electrified sendoff, and signaling Aston Martin’s shift towards full electric vehicles. Fully ground-up, dedicated model lines of Aston Martin BEVs will initially appear under the Lagonda sub-brand from 2022 onwards (more on this below).
At just 155 units, and at a very expensive price point, the Rapide E is obviously not intended to compete in a commercial sense with the Tesla Model S, Porsche Taycan, Jaguar I-PACE, or other similar high-end EVs. As with most of Aston’s products, the small number of buyers will be wealthy folks who are already fans of the Aston Martin brand, who likely own several vehicles, and want to add an EV to their lineup.
It’s therefore no surprise that Aston made this first public showing in Monaco, home of the super rich. The Rapide E’s program director, John Caress, confirmed that they had received plenty of interest, and even some new orders, at the event.
Rapide E specs for DC Charging, by Fully Charged/YouTube
Interestingly, Aston has designed the battery to maintain its peak DC charging power (93 kW) up to 95% state of charge. This may be because a sizable portion of the battery has been kept in reserve, or because the partnership with Williams Advanced Engineering has resulted in the use of a non-typical lithium-ion chemistry. It’s not clear whether the 65 kWh is really the full (gross) size of the battery, or just the size that Aston is officially quoting. Either way, judging by a DC charging session briefly illustrated in the video, the usable capacity of the battery seems to be around 57.5 kWh.
To get 200 miles WLTP from this apparent 57.5 kWh usable capacity is not too bad for a large luxury sports sedan, built on a barely modified chassis (and aero design) borrowed from an ICE sibling. Obviously, the range doesn’t compete with higher volume EVs like the Teslas (or even the Jaguar I-PACE), or some of the affordable Korean EVs, but this was likely never the goal of the Rapide E.
Spirited Sunday drives for well-heeled folks, in the countryside or along the Mediterranean coastline, and then taking time out for long leisurely lunches, will likely be the more typical call-of-duty for this high-end luxury sports sedan. To convert these folks to battery electric driving is already a small win. Aston will never be a high-volume brand — 2018 company turnover was around £1.1 billion (around $1.24 billion) on sales of 6,441 vehicles. However, for a high-profile, historic, luxury brand to be making the move into electric vehicles is a good indicator of the direction of travel of the industry.
Last year Aston, now under the leadership of CEO Andy Palmer (previously involved with the LEAF program at Nissan), also signaled a strategy to reincarnate the older Lagonda sub-brand as a dedicated BEV-only brand. They have since showcased sedan and SUV concepts, seemingly focussing on luxury interiors:
Lagonda Vision Concept / Aston Martin
I couldn’t find a definitive release date for these upcoming Lagonda vehicles, but starting from 2022 seems to be the likely timeline. Aston is perhaps fortunate in not having a huge amount of investment locked up in ICE powertrains. It recently started using Mercedes AMG engines for its vehicles, and may thus not be as encumbered by the legacy technology as, for example, BMW appears to be.
In what is now a classic revelation when experiencing EV powertrains for the first time, the Rapid E’s race driver, Darren Turner, spoke of his initial skepticism quickly evaporating upon his first development test of the vehicle:
“It was a real eye-opener for me. … I was expecting it to be quite low in performance. … I have to say, after the 1st lap, I came in, and I was pretty blown away … actually [the performance was] too much for me! [I asked] can we dampen down the throttle response? Car balance, breaking, turn in, accelerating, all that stuff — I was impressed.”
Take a look at the beautifully produced YouTube video, hosted by Fully Charged’s excellent Jonny Smith:
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