It was only a matter of time before an established brand put a definitive date on its final move from combustion engines, and now Bentley has won that race.
The British luxury maker has just announced that its entire range will be pure electric by 2030.
This means the company will go from its current status as being the world’s largest producer of 12-cylinder engines to being combustion-free in less than a decade.
Bentley has previously said it will be phasing out use of its venerable W12 engine within a few years, but the aggressive timescale for this move to full electrification – outlined in an online briefing for journalists on what it calls its 'Beyond 100' strategy – comes as more of a surprise.
The company says that every model in the range will have the option of a hybrid powertrain by 2023 and it will launch its first full electric vehicle (EV) production model in 2025.
Before reaching full electrification Bentley says everything it produces will be either a plug-in hybrid or fully electric as soon as 2026.
As Volkswagen Group’s most powerful plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) platform uses the V6 shared across Audi and Porsche models, it strongly suggests the V8 powered Bentley will live barely longer than the W12 version.
The company is planning to launch two PHEVs next year, which we believe will be a revised Bentayga plug-in hybrid with more electric range than the original, with the same powertrain offered in the Flying Spur sedan soon afterwards.
Bentley boss Adrian Hallmark is a fan of PHEVs as what he calls “bridging technology”, but also says that a company of Bentley’s modest global size will struggle to offer a full range of combustion, hybridised and EV powertrains.
At a recent event in the UK he told CarAdvice “you’ve got to make a corporate decision on how much overlap you want. And I would always say the less the better. Don’t forget, by the time we get to 2030 the legislation on batteries and the energy efficiency of cars will be no less challenging than it is now with combustion engines”.
“We would love to keep working on six engines plus battery electric vehicles plus hybrids,” Hallmark said, “but we haven’t got the capacity to do it. You’ve got to pick a point in time where battery power density, especially for bigger cars, is the liberator for us. We’ve always said that the mid-2020s is the time when you can expect to see 120-plus kilowatt-hour batteries coming through the supply chain.”
Bentley is also going to turn itself into what it describes as an “end-to-end carbon neutral car brand by 2030”.
The company’s Crewe factory is already certified carbon neutral with a water recycling system in its paint shop and no fewer than 30,000 solar panels.
By 2025 it commits to become ‘plastic neutral’ – removing the same amount of plastic from the environment as it creates.
Having been forced into a serious corporate restructure by the coronavirus crisis – losing around 800 jobs earlier this year – Bentley also says it wants to make itself “financially resilient and recession proof.”
Despite the effects of the pandemic it says it is actually on course to make a profit this year.
Bentley’s move has also revealed an ideological split at the very top of the car industry, with Ferrari CEO Louis Camilleri recently being quoted as saying in an official release: “I really don’t see Ferrari ever being at 100 percent EV and certainly not in my lifetime will reach even 50 percent”.