Bentley’s first EV, scheduled for launch in 2025, is likely to be assembled and finished at its Crewe headquarters, although the firm must earn the right to do so ahead of its Volkswagen Group peers, chairman and CEO Adrian Hallmark has revealed.
The EV is expected to be a high-riding saloon based on a bespoke VW Group architecture, codenamed Project Artemis, an Audi-led initiative to develop an advanced EV platform. As such, it is anticipated that the EV’s bodies would be built at an Audi facility before being sent to the UK for finishing.
“We started building in Crewe in 1936 and we’ve invested hundreds of millions in infrastructure and certification for electrification, so we have the capability to do it,” said Hallmark. “But the important thing to note is that we still have to be competitive, and fight to ensure the maximum possible content for our cars is made in Crewe. We are part of a group so we must prove we are the best option, but from a brand point of view, it is our mission to ensure everything can be built here.
“Yes, it is feasible that we may get coated, unpainted bodies and then do the rest of the work – all the way through to the bespoke trim and interiors, but we have a proud record of adding value on the site that is exceptional. Today, I can say that the mission for this car is to have it in Crewe.”
Hallmark also highlighted potentially closer links with Audi in years to come, particularly highlighting the Project Artemis underpinnings. He said: “We will have more synergies in five to 10 years with Audi in terms of luxury than we do now with Porsche on sportiness.
“Working with Audi is an opportunity not a risk. We will have relations with sister brands and are happy to do so. It sends a strong message for Bentley’s future that we are a strategic part of the group – that we are electrifying and are pushing forward.
“Artemis is a derivative of a new electrical architecture. It will be the basis for multiple products in different segments. With our current cars, we had to get into engineering largely after the architecture had been done. We had to add bits as well as engineer the architecture for Bentley. With this new one [Artemis], we’re right in at the beginning defining what it needs to achieve for us. We’re a benefactor of it and paying a contribution, so we can give detailed engineering requirements from day one so it makes industrialisation much easier for the company.”
Asked why Bentley is only launching its first EV in 2025, Hallmark said: “Weight is a concern [on electric cars], which is why we’ve waited. If you look at the power density per cubic centimetre five years ago and five years into the future, there has been a rapid evolution of power density but also power management. We build big heavy cars and they will be heavier. But improvements in battery tech and battery management, and a dedication to make cars lighter, have better aero and less resistance, mean even the heaviest car can be a very efficient car.”
Hallmark also dismissed concerns that not all nations would be ready to go electric by 2030, the date by which all new Bentleys will be electrified. He said: “It’s possible everywhere by then. Look at the rate of ramp-up on motorways and elsewhere – it’s extraordinary – and there will be innovations by then that help, too, such as inductive charging breakthroughs.”
In a wide-ranging interview, Hallmark also talked up autonomous functions but said Bentley will not be pioneering in the field – “We want to be a close follower but not a pioneer, to avoid all the boring bits” – and he called hydrogen “a great idea, but the quantities of energy required for its production and the challenges of storing and transporting it mean it doesn’t make sense yet.”