the electric car has many strengths. It’s quiet, it accelerates hard, it’s cheap to recharge… So why are prestigious brands slow to adopt electric cars? Almost all generalist manufacturers have one or more electric cars in their catalogue. This is far from the case for prestige brands.
There is the Jaguar I-Pace, a pioneer launched in 2018, but which no longer sells much. On the other hand, the Ferrari range has not yet been touched by any model. At Lamborghini, not the smallest watt is offered, except for the 2017 Terzo Millennio prototype, with the ingenious bodywork serving as the accumulator. The 2019 Aston Martin Rapide E, on the other hand, failed… It must be said that so far buyers have not shown any particular eagerness. So by 2020, only 30% of Bentley customers wanted to ride the tram.
Today is announcement time. Ferrari expects its first model in three years. Bentley, in turn, declares its intention to launch, from 2025, one electric car per year. Maserati promises full electrification of its range by 2026. Manufacturers really have no choice, Europe has voted to end thermal for 2035. Still, we are far from traffic jams at the charging station! And even if, next year, Rolls is due to launch the Specter, its first electric model, that the Range Rover will have its electric version in 2024, for now, the Porsche Taycan feels very alone.
Ecology, bad students will they be saved?
Fans of exceptional cars can rejoice. A part of the automotive heritage could be saved. Thus, Amendment 121 exempts very small brands from any switch to electricity. Anyone who produces less than 10,000 cars a year can continue to manufacture thermal cars! This concerns in particular: Ariel, Morgan, Bugatti, Pagani, Donkervoort or Koenigsegg. These manufacturers often produce ultra-polluting sports cars. In terms of environment, it’s a good point given to the bad student. Political ecology is very difficult to follow.
Similarities between electric cars
The problem is that the electric provides sensations that, in the final analysis, are quite similar from one model to another. The performances are there, with lightning acceleration, all the torque being delivered instantly, but the character is missing. This energy, as it appears today, is incompatible with automotive prestige.
The gearbox, noise, vibrations, which strongly contribute to the soul of a car, are missing from the electric motor. And it’s very difficult for a voiceless mechanic to convey the outrageously sporting spirit of a Ferrari. Equally delicate is to translate, with a linear engine, the impression of “always sufficient power”, a prerogative of the Rolls. With the electric, you have the impression of always driving the same vehicle.
The problem is that buyers forgive a luxury or sports car for being tiring, noisy, uncomfortable, bordering on dangerous, but not for being ordinary or boring. Still, Peter Bosch, a member of Bentley’s supervisory board, remains positive. “Electric is perfect for our best performing products, he declares. We always aim to make silent sports cars. » Could he have forgotten the supercharged engine of the 1920s 6.5L Speed Six, with its thunderous, haunting sound?
How to proceed?
The tram, therefore, would lack a bit of character… Based on this observation, some brands apply to give it some, even if sometimes this involves somewhat artificial parades. Thus, most electric cars retain a classic architecture with a prominent front hood. “The vast majority of electric car customers want to maintain a traditional thermal car form,” announces Gilles Vidal, Renault’s head of style.
Some brands simulate
- A gearbox to erase the linearity of the tram: Porsche installed artificial gear shifts in its Taycan so that its acceleration takes place in stages.
- A mythical denomination: At Porsche again, the Taycan is called the Turbo or Turbo S, just like the mythical 911 thermal.
- An engine sound: The watted engine is voiceless. Some manufacturers imagined synthetic sounds. BMW even called in the illustrious German composer Hans Zimmer. Over long distances, these artificial sounds end up breaking your ears. Fortunately, they are disconnectable.
- A heat car project: Very small, the electric motor can be placed almost anywhere, especially in the hub of the wheels.
knowledge and skill
If some are still reluctant, most prestigious manufacturers are engaged in profound change. Jaguar is clearly focusing on design to make a difference. He has his team led by creative director Gerry McGovern, who promises “electric cars like no other”. Béatrice Foucher, General Manager of Automobiles DS, seeks to give extra soul to its cars, which will be 100% electric from 2024, thanks to the French spirit of luxury.
The brand’s design studio has a saddler that develops, for the Opéra finishes, leather seats with elegant straps. Some metal parts of the cabin receive a guilloche finish, as is done in watchmaking in particular. Other avenues are open to manufacturers. “To differentiate themselves, Bentley teams work on design, materials, craftsmanship and unlimited customization”, says Peter Bosch. a whole program that the good life wait to find out!
3 Questions for Martin Millot – Lexus Marketing Director, Specialist in High Quality Hybrid Vehicles
How are Lexus customers approaching electrification?
Lexus luxury has always been very different from anything else. Lexus, Toyota’s premium brand, has been offering electrified hybrid cars since 2005. Today, 99% of our sales in France are electrified. So we don’t have the same problem as our competitors other than Tesla.
How to keep your personality?
Lexus has implemented the Lexus Driving Signature and Lexus Driving Experiences programs. Your goal is to find real driving sensations behind the wheel of an electric car. This pleasure is not based on speed, which is exceeded, except for being on a circuit. For us, this translates, in particular, into the definition of a particular interior atmosphere, supported by the Tazuna Cockpit. With this environment, the entire dashboard is oriented towards the driver. It consists in particular of a very modern and scalable head-up display, whose functions are managed through various touch buttons. We find ourselves in the position of a knight holding the reins of his horse, chest straight, gaze far away.
We launched the RZ 450e, our first platform-specific 100% electric vehicle. It is an imposing SUV of 4.8 m and more than 2 t, but with a dynamic design. When you develop an electric car, you need to work on its character. The RZ benefits from a permanent 4WD transmission, which gives a feeling of power and security. Behind the wheel, you feel neither the weight of the vehicle, however substantial, nor its dimensions. We are glued to the road. We therefore found strong driving sensations. The butterfly-shaped Yoke steering wheel and electronic steering column add even more originality to the ride. This system looks like a joystick. It has a 150° stop, which means never having your hands crossed. Permanent all-wheel drive, specific electric platform, Yoke steering wheel… all this means that we are sitting, behind the wheel of the RZ 450e, in another universe, that of Lexus as we always seek to offer.