Picture the scene: it’s a few years in the future. James Bond is on a mission in Amsterdam, or Paris, or some other forward-thinking European city that has just banned internal combustion vehicles from the city center. But Spectre is up to something, and our intrepid hero—who doesn’t like taxis or public transport—needs to find out what’s happening while arriving in style. Commander Bond is in luck, for he is behind the wheel of an electric Aston Martin, the RapidE.
The venerable British carmaker announced on Tuesday that its first electric vehicle will go on sale in 2019. “RapidE represents a sustainable future in which Aston Martin’s values of seductive style and supreme performance don’t merely co-exist alongside a new zero-emission powertrain, but are enhanced by it,” said Dr. Andy Palmer, Aston Martin’s president and CEO, in a statement.
Since just 115 RapidEs will be built, that rules out the possibility of a bespoke EV platform to underpin the RapidE. But as luck would have it, Aston Martin already makes a car called the Rapide (note the lower-case final letter), a four-door sports sedan that’s light on rear legroom but heavy on looks and power.
The RapidE will therefore use the bones of the Rapide. Out goes the 6.0L V12 engine, replaced by an as-yet undisclosed EV powertrain in its place. Like almost all 21st century Aston Martins, the car uses the company’s VH architecture, which is a bonded aluminum chassis that’s both stiff and light. Fitting in all the batteries without messing up the weight distribution, interior volume, or trunk capacity will be a challenge, though, particularly when rivals like Porsche are building new EV sports sedans from the ground up (not to mention Tesla, which has been doing it for half a decade at this point).
Rather than turn to Q Branch for that electrification know-how, Aston Martin is instead partnering with Williams Advanced Engineering. A spin-off of the Williams F1 team, WAE has been getting quite a lot of work in the EV sector of late, including developing the batteries for Formula E as well as being the technical partner for Singapore’s Vanda Electrics and its Dendrobium EV hypercar.