Automakers look ahead to the day when fast-charging changes the electric-car landscape. Many have debated and some have announced 800-volt electric cars, especially Porsche, with forthcoming versions of its Taycan electric car.
Prior to last weekend’s Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer tweeted a photo of his company’s forthcoming 800-volt system, to be built into an electrified version of its existing Rapid-E sedan.
According to Palmer, Aston Martin could beat Porsche to production with a car capable of 800-volt charging.
The @astonmartin Rapid-E EV will use 800v battery technology when launched end 2019. The higher voltage facilitates fast charging times as energy E=VxIxt (V is voltage, I is Current & t is time). Faster charge time t=E/(VxI) achieved by increasing Voltage. Nerdy but bloody good! pic.twitter.com/bHQPTiwaQg— Andy Palmer (@AndyatAston) August 21, 2018
Palmer told Green Car Reports that the forthcoming Rapid-E 800-volt electric car will be available late in 2019.
Calling the Porsche technology “fabulous,” Palmer says his own Rapid-E and 800-volt charging system will be a precursor for the revived Aston Martin Lagona brand.
Lagonda will be a 100-percent electric-vehicle brand, and with that comes some trepidation.
READ MORE: Aston Martin gives first look at Rapid-E's 800-volt battery
“Because no one's done it,” he says, “no one has any clue whatsoever about how our luxury customer will use an electric car.”
To experiment with Aston’s drivers, with battery cars, and with charging, Aston will sell only about 155 cars to customers that Aston will choose, “because we can,” he says. The Rapid-E will be a limited edition model that will only be sold to customers willing to give qualitative feedback on how they use the car.
“They'll be a little bit like our development fleet,” he says.
With the new high-speed charging system on the road by the end of next year, it “probably makes us the first car company in the world to introduce 800 volts into the eco-structure,” Palmer says. “A little bit ahead, probably, of Porsche.”
Teaser for Aston Martin Rapid-E debuting in late 2019
Palmer says the experimental stage will allow Aston to learn much before it relaunches Lagonda as an EV brand sometime after 2020. For one, Aston doesn’t have immediate answers as to where customers will charge their cars, or which standard will emerge as automakers race to provide ever-higher charge speeds.
“That has always been the dilemma,” he admits. “You could think that you have deals with infrastructure providers, [but] the reality is that they almost always let you down. Whether it's utility providers, whether it's gas stations, whether it's governments, eventually the car companies need to fix it collectively by themselves.
“You've seen the industry's inability to fix a standard plug. So we've got at least five different plug cars right now?” he wonders.
The 800-volt system, he believes, will probably emerge from the CCS Combo standard, and that could lead to wider adoption.
Teaser for Aston Martin Rapid-E debuting in late 2019
“The best chance we've actually got right now with the 400-volt gone by,” he says, “is to try to get some harmony around the 800-[volt] system.
“Let's hope the industry's better at doing that than they have in the past,” says Palmer, the former executive vice president of Nissan when it launched the Leaf.
While Lagonda will lead Aston’s battery-electric development, Aston will also produce hybrid vehicles, but those will be badged Aston Martins for the foreseeable future. Palmer says Aston’s hybrids will be series in design, and will use their internal-combustion engines to power and recharge battery packs.
Legislation from any global powerhouse—Europe, China, or North America—could dictate that Aston build plug-in hybrids, and for that it’s prepared.
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“If the only way that Aston could survive [is by] combining gasoline capabilities, to put a plug in, then of course we'll do a plug-in, but as it stands at the moment it is more hybrid, and the hybrid providing power fill-in.”
Palmer says the current political climate, like any other time in history, demands patience with regulatory bodies such as the U.S. EPA. That, he believes, gives his company an advantage.
“We're in a period of infancy,” he says. “We're in a period of disruption. [And] clearly what we're trying to do with Lagonda is disrupt.”
Aston Martin Rapid-E battery development
“Huge conglomerates can take a long time to make decisions. It wouldn't have been easy for any of the competitors to have said, ‘we're gonna throw away the internal combustion engine and go 100 percent BEV.’”
“We're a small company...and therefore we have the opportunity to do that. And it's enormously disruptive.”
Internal-combustion engines will be here for a long time, he says. But surely, electric vehicles will take over, and will even obviate the need for fuel cells. Electric range anxiety will disappear, and then by reason, the need for hydrogen will disappear.
CHECK OUT: Porsche's 800-Volt fast charging for electric cars: why it matters
As that happens, Palmer is adamant that internal combustion is on its way into history—eventually.
“I could be wrong–and that's the point of the times that we live in—but, my basic belief is that if you were to fast forward to 2040, probably half the cars on the road will be battery electric and the rest will be hybrid in some way, shape, or form.”
It’s a long tail, he says, but “ultimately, electrification is as sure as death and taxes.”