Aston Martin’s first ever production electric vehicle has been revealed with subtle design changes from the standard Rapide sedan on which it is based.
The Rapide E, unveiled at the Shanghai motor show by Aston Martin’s chief creative officer Marek Reichmann, becomes the first production EV from any of the established ultra-luxury firms and paves the way for the launch of Aston Martin’s audacious Lagonda all-electric brand early next decade.
Aston Martin has described the Rapide E as a testbed for the technology to be used by Lagonda. Limited to just 155 cars and tipped to cost around £200,000, it gives the company some crucial early customer feedback before trying to fight both Bentley and Rolls-Royce on the unfamiliar turf of stately rather than sporting motoring.
The visual changes over the V12 version of the Rapide include a honeycomb grille in place of the more familiar metal vanes that Aston Martin says reflect the less pressing need for cooling. That helps the aerodynamics as well as marking out the electric car from the petrol version. Also helping is a redesigned underbody floor, which is largely unseen until you get to the bigger rear diffuser at the rear, again aiding the aerodynamics. Aston Martin says the Rapide E is eight percent slipperier than the combustion-engine car.
The biggest visual change for the driver is the inclusion of a digital display in place of the old analogy dials behind the steering wheel to give a range of information, including the battery’s state of charge and electricity consumption. It also changes colour depending on whether you are GT, Sport or Sport+ mode.
The transformation of what is now Aston Martin’s oldest car involved ripping out the V12 drivetrain and filling the dumbbell-sized space with a 65kWh battery pack designed by the customer arm of the Williams Formula 1 team. The cylindrical cells are similar to those used by Tesla and Aston Martin is promising similar performance from the 604bhp car with a 0-60mph sprint of “under” four seconds and a top speed limited to 155mph.
The downside of the relatively small battery pack is a range of around 200 miles measured on the new WLTP cycle in Europe. However by using an 800v battery pack compared to 375 volts for the Tesla Model X and Model S, Aston says the batteries can be charged much quicker using a rapid charger and not suffer any of the power-sapping ‘de-rating’ that protects lower voltage batteries when regular rapid charging or performance driving.
Aston claims the car will drive “a full lap of the Nürburgring with no performance derating of the battery or the motors”. So far the only other competing electric car with a 800v system is the upcoming Porsche Taycan.
The Rapide E will be the first car Aston Martin builds in its new factory in St Athan, south Wales, when it goes into production in the fourth quarter of this year. The Lagonda cars will also be made there.
Aston Martin revealed a concept at the Geneva auto show in March previewing the first Lagonda, an SUV, due in 2022.
A sedan previewed by the Vision Concept in 2018 will follow a year later.
The Rapide E is “is truly historic step” for the company, Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer said in a statement. “Only by doing this can we learn and prepare, but also preserve those things we love as drivers and car enthusiast”. He promised that the Rapide E still held all those “unique qualities” that define Aston Martin.