How high-end automakers adapt to electrical energy

As high-end automakers adapt to a new world order, luxury rules are being redefined.

Luxury is hardly logical. Throughout the first century of automotive history, car owners respected the finesse of leather, wood, and complex 12-cylinder engines the way they considered mechanical watches: with a healthy respect for handmade complexity. Traditional car construction follows the same principles as the horological world, placing a premium on laborious crafts. But when a changing world forces new demands on vehicle emissions, the next revolution comes down from the top. The Formula 1 racing follows the gas / electric hybrid powertrain and the so-called “Holy Trinity of Hypercar” – Ferrari Lafarge, McLaren P1, and Porsche 918 Spyder. If a million-dollar ultra-exotics can achieve an edge through electrification, change is certainly not all bad.

We are now five years into that paradigm shift, and the top car manufacturers are in the throes of a fever, ready to write the second job of a luxury automobile. Trailblazing EVs helped turn a skilled South African into the richest man in the world, and the electrifying efforts that pushed the first wave took a strong swing in the genre from a pascal of forward-thinking superiors, capturing the boasting title boggling with all electric models. Think: 1,900 horsepower (Pininfarina Batista), 520 miles range (Lucid Air), and 0 to 60 miles per hour (remake Nevera) in 1.85 seconds. But luxury has never been a matter of numbers alone, especially in a place where excitement is defined not only by hardware, but also by ambiguity. Those who at a young age were imprinted with a certain skin odor or car manufacturer’s strange identity may be related; Fans quickly point out the preferences of a brand, which makes each model as distinctive as a fingerprint, despite a common goal going from A to B.

Bentley Flying Spar hybrid
Bentley Flying Spur (Bentley Motors)

As high-end marks penetrate deep into electrification, they are forced to focus on every touchpoint along the way. Alain Favie, a member of the Bentley Sales and Marketing Board, cites the charging experience as one of the many components that must be on-brand for its hybrid and EV to be successful. “Our customers expect a luxurious charging experience,” he explains, “and when you drive a premium brand like Mercedes or the Volume brand it needs to be different from what you get; it can’t be like a [Volkswagen] ID-4. “

Bentley PR chief Wayne Bruce noted that the brand only uses its owner-app to measure customer preferences. A survey revealed that when Bentley’s first hybrid was released (in 2019), only 30 percent of respondents indicated they wanted an electric model. As of five months ago, that number had doubled.

Addressing an electrified future means branding efforts need to expand beyond conventional styling and performance and go deeper into software and user interface design: from portal charging to onboard route planners and multimedia systems must meet the vehicle’s own nameplate expectations. As the dream of self-driving cars recedes, manufacturers are making more efforts to drive their EVs in line with consumer expectations, even if the drive comes from electrons, not internal combustion. Performance-based and legacy brands are aggressively leading electrification charges. Newcomers have brands. Ferrari’s first continuously produced plug-in hybrid was the nearly 1,000-horsepower SF90 Stradale, the first time the Pressing Horse flagship switched to three-motor, low-cylinder (12 for 8) battery-powered drives. The brand has doubled upmarket / downsizing themes with the 296 GTB, an 818-horsepower plug-in hybrid packed for the first time into a road-going Ferrari-branded V6K model. Among the hybrids, Maranello’s To-Dive predates the debut of their first full EV in 2025, which should present their biggest challenge in delivering that impeccable Ferrari feel without the benefit of a screaming internal combustion engine.

In terms of the critique of satisfying key audiences whose preferences are quite specific, at least, performance-oriented carmakers are relying on the pillars of the original brand to ensure that the models they have to drive. While Ferrari’s hybrids are already gaining critical acclaim, other manufacturers are still in the process of researching and developing their electrified sports cars. Frank Van Mill, CEO of BMW’s performance-focused M brand, looks to the future through the prism of the past. He said the engines in the 4- to 6- to 8-cylinder M cars caused a stir among enthusiasts because the larger engines were heavier; The advent of turbocharging has sparked similar concerns about sound quality and throttle response. For the first electrified M car, the van mile note, power and acceleration is less of a problem than a blur that makes a driver integrate with the machine.

All NewEQS sources
Pinifarina batista (Photo by Sandy Hafaker via Automobile Pininfarina)

“The real work is that smile, that emotion,” he said, describing a specific thing that can be touted as a unique feeling associated with each brand drive. Mercedes-AMG boss Philip Schmeier recently launched the brand’s first fully electric car, the 751-horsepower AMG EQS, based on the EQS sedan, similar to the Temar, S-Class. Skimmer revealed that not only will other departments receive AMG treatment (as expected), but their efforts will be extended to a standalone AMG electric vehicle “not too far into the future”.

Using hybrid powertrains as a bridge to complete electrification is a common strategy, especially among car manufacturers whose foundations were built on signature powerplants. Lamborghini’s Snirling V10 and V12 engines have been the hallmarks of their ragging bull personality since the brand’s inception. The Sant’Agata carmaker expects a complete conversion to hybrids by 2024 – a move that will enable them to hold on to their huge gas engines. Bentley’s Beyond 100 business strategy promises plug-in hybrid versions of all models by 2024, their first full EV in 2025 and a full EV-only lineup by 2030. In 7 years, the strategy will take them away from the world. The top producers of 12-cylinder engines are not giving any. Aston Martin is also on board with the hybrid-first system, which began distributing their $ 3 million, 1,160-horsepower Valkyrie last year. While Aston aims to offer its first battery-electric vehicle in 2025 and electrical options across the lineup by 2026, it is also building a single China variant of the DBX using a light-hybrid 6-cylinder. The brand expects 90 percent of the cars sold by 2030 to be plug-in hybrid or pure electric, and their recent partnership with battery technology company BritishVault complements their technical connection with Mercedes-Benz and enables them to move forward in this growing arena.

Rolls Royce Specter

If the road to electrified luxury could be summed up in one notion, it could be that carmakers face countless obstacles to moving towards a common goal, the least of which is to preserve and retain their core features as they move towards change. . Almost everything about their car.

Each road is unique, and the Rolls-Royce is no different. Instead of using plug-in hybrids to make it easier for their customers to electrify, the Goodwood brand is using its past to take a quantum leap to the future. In 1900, the company’s co-founder Charles Rolls had an early EV experience and competently described the experience, “The electric car is completely soundless and clean, with no odor or vibration. But for now, I don’t think they will be very serviceable – at least in the future.” Delivery is expected to begin in the fourth quarter of 2023, with Rolls-Royce’s first electric car at that time. Luxury is about changing the course of the future. “

Manufacturers participating in these programs include Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes-AMG, Lamborghini, Porsche, BMW, Toyota and Mazda. Starting as a blank canvas, each chassis is matched with uniform performance and technical features that make the playing field equal to any amount of experience for aspiring drivers. Performance and technical settings, respectively, all that needs to be done for the owner and / or team is to design a lever that embodies the personality of the participants.

Through organized race series and events that bring like-minded owners together, each program presents a safe and educational environment that celebrates the true spirit of the competition. The stress of sourcing and repairing a race car after a painful track day is alleviated with quick-response service departments that help you maximize your time on the track during the season. In addition to providing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, customer racing also opens the door to start a professional career in the growing world of automotive motorsport. Discover the available factory race vehicles and customer race programs by contacting the automotive manufacturer of your choice.

This article appeared in our May 2022 issue.

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