Bentley to focus on plug-in hybrid tech, but first EV due ‘before 2025’

Bentley boss Adrian Hallmark says plug-in hybrid power has a big role to play in Brit brand’s electrification strategy

Bentley Bentayga PHEV - plugged-in

Bentley is likely to focus on plug-in hybrid electrification until the middle of the next decade - even though the firm’s boss admits that almost half of the customers in the luxury brand’s marketplace are interested in adding a pure-electric model to their fleet.

The British firm only confirmed a single plug-in model in its range, the Bentayga, although electrified versions of its new Continental GT and next-gen Flying Spur are expected to arrive within the next 18 months.

Best plug-in hybrid cars on sale

Speaking at the Financial Times Future of the Car Summit, Bentley CEO Adrian Hallmark said that while luxury customers appear ready for electrification, concerns about the achievable range of large electric vehicles would stand in the way of the tech being adopted on his firm’s models for the foreseeable future. 

“I believe customers are looking for BEVs,” he said. “Our research in the luxury sector shows that about 40 per cent of people who buy cars in our price bracket are looking at BEVs, not to replace their only car but to have as part of their regular fleet, and for specific usage. So we do see this [pure-electric cars] as an opportunity in the luxury sector too.

“In next five to 10 years BEVs will become a much more significant part of industry than the current three per cent, or even six per cent. But look at the science - the energy density of batteries today and over the next five to 10 years. The Jaguar I-Pace is a great car because the battery and the car were designed as one overall unit. And because it’s a perfect-sized car for that battery technology.

“You could, in five to 10 years, have a bigger car with 500km (310 miles) of range. So as battery technology improves, more products will be brought into the market. But right now, if you tried to make a big SUV or a Mulsanne as a full EV, it would go really well but for a short distance. We need occasional long-distance capability, because you can’t always use the train.

“So we’re committed to hybrid; we’ll hybridise everything we have. But right now, I can’t give date for the first Bentley BEV. It’ll be before 2025, though.” 

“I always thought plug-in hybrids were a very temporary stopgap and not a long-term solution. But they are mid-term solutions. We have a US customer who’s a billionaire; in fact, we’ve had to pay him a dollar every month to make him an employee so he can drive our prototype. He’s been driving a V6 hybrid and over three months he’s spent 67 per cent of his journey time on electricity alone. If you’re only travelling in the city and doing short journeys then BEVs are great. But for bigger cars that have higher loads, where BEVs wouldn’t work today because of battery power density, over the next five to 10 years PHEVs will be a viable solution.” 

Hallmark also called on infrastructure providers and legislators to do a better job on delivering a consistent message on the benefits of zero-emissions motoring.

“Look at the diesel solution that we all adopted 15-20 years ago,” he said. “The duties on diesel differed from those on petrol, there were tax incentives; in terms of total cost of ownership, there was a clear economic benefit to running a diesel car. That’s because decisive action was taken. But we’ve heard no decisive action on battery-electric vehicles; it’s all ‘maybe in the future when the demand picks up’.

“We’ve got to be decisive - mandating charging points in every residential property, or standardised charging protocols, standardised billing systems. Why don’t people buy BEVs? Because it’s a voyage of discovery to live with the damn things. There needs to be a systemic set of policies that really help the rapid introduction of battery-electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid vehicles.”

Click here for our list of the best luxury cars on sale right now...

Recommended

Bentley Bentayga, Flying Spur and Continental GT to survive the switch to electric
Conti GT
Bentley

Bentley Bentayga, Flying Spur and Continental GT to survive the switch to electric

The Bentley CEO sees no reason to axe the brand’s established model lines as it moves into the all-electric future
6 Jul 2021
Exclusive: Bentley boss says UK car industry needs to improve diversity
Adrian Hallmark
Bentley

Exclusive: Bentley boss says UK car industry needs to improve diversity

Bentley boss Adrian Hallmark thinks the UK car industry “needs to seek out minorities and women”
24 Jun 2021
"Bentley's move to electric won't be binary" says CEO
Bentley
Bentley

"Bentley's move to electric won't be binary" says CEO

Brand’s switch to fully electric cars won’t happen overnight, with petrol power still very much in the frame short term
24 Mar 2021
Bentley order books bulging after record year despite Covid
Bentley

Bentley order books bulging after record year despite Covid

Pandemic hasn’t stopped Bentley recording even more orders in 2021 after record year in 2020
24 Mar 2021

Most Popular

Best electric cars to buy 2021
Best electric cars
Electric cars

Best electric cars to buy 2021

There are more electric cars than ever to choose from, so we've picked some of the best you can buy in the UK now
19 Oct 2021
New Kia EV6 2021 review
Kia EV6 front tracking
Kia EV6

New Kia EV6 2021 review

With a sporty drive, 300-plus miles of range and plenty of tech - could the new Kia EV6 be one of the best electric cars on sale?
19 Oct 2021
New Michelin Uptis airless tyre blows in ahead of 2024 launch
Michelin Uptis
News

New Michelin Uptis airless tyre blows in ahead of 2024 launch

The new airless Michelin Uptis is made from rubber and fibreglass and promises to be longer lasting, fuel-saving and recyclable
20 Oct 2021