Aston Martin has revealed an all-new RapidE as part of the current China state visit to the UK. The concept car features an all-electric powertrain in place of the V12 on the production Rapide S sedan and, with the help of a Chinese investment group, could be launched as a production electric Rapide within a two-year timeframe.
Aston Martin introduced the RapidE yesterday at London's Lancaster House, where Prince William and wife Catherine (Kate) welcomed Chinese president Xi Jinping. The car served as the centerpiece for the UK's GREAT campaign encouraging tourism and business investment and also as an example of cooperation between British and Chinese entities. Aston Martin and Chinese investment group ChinaEquity announced an agreement for exploring the possibility of RapidE production.
"We see luxury electric vehicles as an intrinsic part of our future product portfolio and welcome ChinaEquity into the next phase of study for the project development," said Aston CEO Andy Palmer. "The exciting RapidE concept tangibly demonstrates the capability and ambition of Aston Martin towards developing low- and zero-emission sports cars."
Given that Aston Martin hasn't revealed any powertrain details, it's natural to suspect the RapidE of being nothing more than a gas-driven Rapide S hurriedly decorated with new badging and a fancy paint job. However, the automaker does pop the hood in one photo, revealing the electrical architecture developed with help from Williams Advanced Engineering, the UK firm that supplies batteries to Formula E. The RapidE was designed at Williams' Grove, Oxfordshire facility.
Recent reports suggested Aston Martin was developing an electric Rapide S with a whopping 800 horsepower. We're not sure that the current RapidE has those kind of pulsating, battery-powered biceps under its sexy, four-door skin, but in speaking with Palmer, Autocar found out that any production version could come in two versions: an RWD model with roughly the same 552 bhp as the Rapide S and 200 miles (322 km) of range, and an AWD performance model with between 800 and 1,000 hp.
Like the painful memory known as the Cygnet, electric cars will help Aston keep its fleet fuel economy numbers in check so that it can continue baking its bread and butter: fast, powerful V8/V12 coupes and sedans.
Earlier this year, Aston came to Geneva with the DBX Concept, an AWD electric crossover. Development of an electric crossover is still believed to be on the table, and Palmer's own words this week suggest that the company could offer the crossover in both gas and electric versions.
In response to Autocar's question about building the RapidE at its Gaydon headquarters, Palmer said, "We would build it in Gaydon, yes. But it’s a well-known fact that we will soon need to choose a new factory location to make our expanding product range, including the DBX crossover, which may also have electrified versions."
Offering both gas and electric options will help Aston join Porsche, Bentley, Lamborghini and others in developing a sales-boosting crossover (gas), while also helping fleet fuel economy (electric). Making it electric-only would, of course, limit its appeal.
Take a look at the video clip to see a short shot of the RapidE rolling forward quietly, without the rumbling V12 rattling the foundations of nearby buildings.