With a push for stricter emissions regulations coming from countries like China - comfortably one of Bentley’s largest markets - the exclusive British car maker may be compelled to leap forward with an all-electric Mulsanne.
Speaking with British website Autocar at the demonstration of the new Mulsanne Extended Wheelbase, Hans Holzgartner, manager of Mulsanne product and marketing, said that the company has already been looking at an all-electric powertrain to comply with Chinese draft legislation.
“The indication is that full-electric will be the only way you’ll get to some cities in China,” he said. “Even some of the hybrid drives just won’t get into [these cities].”
According to Holzgartner, similar moves could be in the pipeline for some parts of Europe, including Germany. Using a petrol V8 as the sole powertrain option in these markets would be unsustainable.
The switch to electric power presents a challenge for Bentley, as the company wants to ensure than its models remain enjoyable to drive.
However, Holzgartner said that an electric powertrain suits the luxurious and effortlessly powerful nature of vehicles like the Mulsanne.
“I think electric is much better suited to bigger, heavier, smoother saloon cars,” he said.
“With a Mulsanne-sized car, it’s all about torque anyway. The delivery characteristics of electric driver - loads of bottom-end torque, almost silent delivery, very smooth - they all fit.”
“Our challenge is to make something that’s as interesting to drive as a current Bentley,” he added, “because while a Mulsanne will be driven in almost silent mode even with a petrol engine, if you’ve got a Mulsanne Speed you’ll want to let rip every so often.”
The Mulsanne boss also mentioned an electric motor would have to make up for the loss of ‘character’ that would be lost with ditching the deep, bellowing engine note of the car’s current 6.75-litre V8.
However, he said that most customers - particularly those in China - who spend a lot of time sitting in traffic, will be “just fine” with an all-electric powertrain.
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