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New Electric Bentley Won’t Use Rare Earth Elements

Bentley has just announced the launch of a 3-year study whose aim is the production of a fully integrated, free from rare-earth magnet e-axle powertrain that will support new electric vehicle architectures as well as the electrification of its current “legacy” platforms.

Wait, the Bentley that builds enormously heavy luxury sportscars for rappers, athletes, and control freaks who don’t want anyone else driving their Rolls-Royce? Yes, THAT Bentley has just announced the launch of a 3-year study whose aim is the production of a fully integrated, free from rare-earth magnet e-axle powertrain that will support new electric vehicle architectures as well as the electrification of its current “legacy” platforms.

2019 Bentley EXP 100 Concept

2019 Bentley EXP 100 Concept, image courtesy Bentley Motors

Electric cars are quieter, faster, and cleaner than conventional internal combustion cars. This is an objective sort of thing, not an opinion, which many CT readers already realize. Those facts are beyond debate, but some of the ingredients of today’s awesome electric cars are still fraught with controversy. That’s especially true of rare Earth elements (REEs), which are hard to mine in brutal conditions and typically pulled out of the Earth in environmentally destructive ways.

Indeed, some companies have devoted millions of dollars towards ensuring that their REEs are being sourced ethically or recycling and up-cycling what’s already out there. In that context, Volkswagen and Bentley’s solution of skipping those headaches altogether seems pretty genius.

Bentley’s study is being called OCTOPUS. It’s a painfully forced acronym of “Optimised Components, Test and simulatiOn, toolkits for Powertrains which integrate Ultra high-speed motor Solutions,” but it does have the advantage of sounding a bit like a clandestine James Bond-y sort of baddy organization, which is pretty kickass.


OCTOPUS Drive, courtesy Bentley Motors

In the amount that the OCTOPUS acronym arguably fails in grammatical merit, however, it more than makes up for it as a metaphor. That’s because the OCTOPUS’ proposed e-axle will have its tentacles everywhere in Bentley’s lineup. The big Bentayaga SUV? This will slot right in, perfect for a PHEV or full EV version. A new Bacalar speedster? The small, British carmaker won’t have to develop an all-new EV platform because the e-axle will very probably work in the existing one, keeping costs down and Bentley’s business case to its parent company, Volkswagen, viable into a new generation.

“We have made no secret of our ambition to lead the way in the delivery of sustainable luxury mobility,” explains Stefan Fischer, Director of Powertrain Engineering at Bentley Motors. “We have a clear roadmap to offer a hybrid option for every model (Bentley) by (model year) 2023, starting with the Bentayga, and our next goal moves towards a fully electric Bentley by 2026.”

It remains to be seen whether or not Bentley will be able to deliver on its goals by the 2026 model year, but with Mate Rimac’s official involvement in the Bentley project fully expected, this feels like an “if anyone can, these guys can” sort of thing, to me. And, like, I think they probably can.

What do you think? Is little Bentley biting off more than it can chew, or will Volkswagen’s deep pockets and vast wealth of industrial knowledge pull it through? Let us know in the comments section at the bottom of the page.

Source: Bentley, via Interesting Engineering.

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I've been involved in motorsports and tuning since 1997, and have been a part of the Important Media Network since 2008. You can find me here, working on my Volvo fansite, riding a motorcycle around Chicago, or chasing my kids around Oak Park.


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