Aston Martin Plots an Electric Future


You may not imagine James Bond peeling out in a silent car, but Aston Martin is looking to change that. The company that makes some of the most beautiful cars in the world is planning an all-electric version of its popular Rapide S.

Since its spin-off from Ford in 2007, Aston has struggled to stay relevant, mainly because the cost of creating new cars is so high. At a luncheon ahead of the New York Auto show, CEO Andy Palmer said, “Aston Martin can’t continue to live in this feast or famine state. We have to find a way to stay in the market that goes beyond launching a new sports car every twelve years.

“To that end, we think that creating an electric version of the Rapide S makes the most sense.”

“People in Silicon Valley are buying the $120,000 Tesla P85D — but where do they go from there?” said Palmer “There is no luxury car for them to step up into and I think that that’s a prime market for a new all-electric Aston Martin.”

The project has a two- to three-year timeline, so details are still sketchy. According to executives at the event, Aston has supplied a number of unnamed engineering companies in Silicon Valley and around the world, with CAD designs of the Rapide S (one got an actual car to tear apart and test), along with powertrain and horsepower requirements; 1,000 hp was mentioned more than once, though no one would say for certain if the new electric Aston Martin will pack that kind of punch.


The car will likely have a 49/51 front-rear weight distribution (similar to the Rapide S), and either be rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. There will be an extremely limited number of electric cars produced—possibly only 100, much like the Vantage GT12 (formerly the GT3 before Porsche went after them for the name) that was announced in February.  Each of the start-ups that Aston is looking to partner with is working on the motor and battery design while Aston Martin tries to measure interest — among customers and potential investors.

That doesn’t mean that Aston is going to bet the farm on a bunch of start-ups, however. “We are looking at technology in Formula E and F1, and the batteries we will likely use will come from a major manufacturer,” Palmer said.

While Tesla would appear to be the logical collaborator for Aston Martin, Simon Sproule, Aston Martin’s director of marketing and communications says that Tesla isn’t a likely partner. “They’ve filed their patents and we can take a look at them and see if there’s anything there that we might want. Right now, however, we want to give start-ups around the world the chance to put their technology into an Aston Martin,” he said. (Sproule formerly worked at Tesla.)

Going electric also means appealing to other, entirely new markets for Aston. Asia is a booming luxury market growing at staggering rates, and luxury companies like Bentley and Rolls-Royce have made (and are making) big plays there.  As Palmer noted during our interview, Asian buyers have begun to see cars as an “asset class”— something to be invested in. By creating a limited-run electric vehicle, Aston appeals to that growing sensibility.

Generation Y and Z have different ideas about cars and their relationship to the rest of the world. “They say that cars kill the polar bears, and they complain about having to park it, and not being able to connect with social media.” Palmer said. “Tesla, however, made cars cool again by making them greener, and integrating a lot of smart technology. We want to try and make a beautiful sports car that is relevant and interesting to Gen Z and Y. “

Female sports car owners are also a key demographic. Julian Jenkins, president of Aston Martin, The Americas, noted that other sports car brands have plenty of female owners but that they have been largely absent from Aston Martin.

This isn’t Aston’s first foray into the world of electric and hybrid vehicles. Back in 2011 Aston introduced a rebadged subcompact Toyota IQ hybrid it called it the Cygnet. The maligned car — “Aston Martin’s Cimarron” —  was created to keep the big, iconic V-12 engine Aston is known for alive. Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards force companies selling in the United States to meet certain mileage numbers for all the cars the company produces. If the company doesn’t meet the standards, they are fined. Europe also has similar standards, and the Cygnet helped Aston Martin meet those numbers.  After dire Cygnet sales, however, Aston ended production of the car in 2013.

Palmer acknowledges that, like the Cygnet, the electric Rapide S won’t be for everyone. “This is a car for those who already have others in their garages. We are aiming to take the luxury electric car to the next level and make Aston Martin more than just a sports car.”