Firm calls time on combustion engines with new strategy; whole range PHEV or EV by 2026
By Mike Duff / Thursday, November 5, 2020
Who had Bentley in the "goes electric first" sweepstake? Because that is what is set to happen, the British luxury maker having confirmed it won't be offering combustion engines beyond 2030 – neither by themselves or even in conjunction with a plug-in hybrid system.
Although Bentley only produces a relatively modest number of cars, this is obviously big news. As things stand the company is still the world's largest manufacturer of 12-cylinder engines, and brawny powerplants have always been a huge part of Bentley's appeal. But as part of its Beyond100 strategy the firm has committed itself to becoming an "end-to-end carbon neutral car brand", with the radical policy announced in an online presentation.
Not that the news is entirely surprising. Bentley has already said that its W12 engine is set to be phased out in the medium-term without direct replacement, with today's event effectively putting an end date on it. Bentley says that every car in its range will be offered with the option of a hybrid powerplant by 2023, it will launch its first full EV in 2025 and that by the following year it will only be selling plug-ins and EVs.
So the W12 will have to be dead by 2026. And, as Volkwagen Group's most powerful plug-in hybrid powertrain is the 3.0-litre V6 system that Bentley already uses, it seems almost certain that the company's V8 will be extinct at the same point. We live in strange times.
At the same event Bentley also confirmed it plans to launch two PHEVs next year. The first of these will be in the facelifted Bentayga, with a longer electric range than the briefly-sold first-gen version. The second looks certain to be the same powertrain in the Flying Spur.
When we interviewed Adrian Hallmark last month he was keen to big up PHEVs as an interim solution on the road to full electrification. But he also admitted that a company of Bentley's relatively modest engineering resources wouldn't be able to support the costs of developing combustion, hybrid and EV models in parallel.
"You've got to make a corporate decision on how much overlap you want, and I would always say the less the better," he said, "we would love to keep working on six engines plus battery electric vehicles plus hybrids but we haven't got the capacity to do it."
While the move is obviously aligned closely to proposed legislative changes in Europe, where several governments are proposing an outright ban on the sale of combustion engined passenger cars as soon as 2030, it risks coming too soon in parts of the world less concerned with trimming emissions. It is a very different approach to Ferrari, where CEO Louis Camilleri recently said "I really don't see Ferrari ever being at 100 percent EV and certainly not in my lifetime will reach even 50 percent."
Yet Hallmark's move could prove to be ahead of the curve, especially compared to his company's most obvious competitor. Rolls-Royce has been talking about electrification for considerably longer than Bentley has, but has been effectively scooped by its rival's announcement.
- Bentley Continental R | PH Heroes
- Bentley Flying Spur | PH Used Buying Guide
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