In the five years that I’ve worked at Autoblog, I’ve read a lot of press releases. They’re all pretty flowery and self-serving, but the ones that go the extra distance with lavish words and pompous phrasing tend to come from the most luxurious brands, Bentley and Rolls-Royce. And something that they both love talking about is sustainably sourced materials for their vehicles. The descriptions read like they’ve seen the light about using resources responsibly. That would be great, except for one thing: There’s nothing sustainable about multi-ton land yachts with eight or more cylinders.
Only one of Bentley’s models can be had with fuel economy better than 20 mpg combined when running on gasoline, and guess what, it’s not one of the brand’s two plug-in hybrids (which are to be commended, but still seem half-hearted when we’re talking serious sustainability). And Rolls-Royce is even worse without a single model even hitting 15 mpg combined.
These automakers should have at least one EV model apiece. Apparently, there are some coming, but they’re still years away, and that frankly shocks and frustrates me for a number of reasons.
One of the big ones is that these brands couldn’t be better suited to electric propulsion. What makes these cars impressive is their refinement and performance. You can’t get much better in either of those categories than with beefy electric motors, which provide nearly silent operation with no gear changes and enormous power and torque ratings. And it’s all achievable with a lot less effort than making an 8- or 12-cylinder internal combustion engine quiet and smooth.
Sure, battery technology is complicated, and it’s expensive and heavy, but all of that is covered by these brand’s typical products. They can command prices that would easily absorb the cost of batteries. And the size and weight of current cars mean that loading them up with batteries to achieve range comparable to their gas models wouldn’t be a problem, either. Heck, that’s the exact strategy being used by GM and Ford to get huge range in their electric trucks.
And the cost of the EV technology shouldn’t even be that great for Bentley or Rolls-Royce, since they’re both owned by companies that are leaders in electric car development with existing technology and the ability to spread costs out over various brands. BMW owns Rolls-Royce and has been working on EV stuff for years, and it’s launching a couple of major electric models this year. VW Group owns Bentley, and even though they’re newer to EVs, their roll-out of models is seemingly well ahead of BMW. This is the company that gave us the Porsche Taycan and Audi E-Tron GT. Those models could easily be used to create a fast, sleek Bentley variant. And it can’t be an issue with personal brand pride. I mean, the Flying Spur Hybrid uses the Panamera 4S E-Hybrid’s powertrain, so sharing technology is totally on the table. Ultra-luxe brands sometimes say they’re waiting for the technology to mature and be just right. Well, if it’s good enough for Porsche, it’s probably ready.
In fairness, Bentley and Rolls-Royce have said they will launch electric cars in 2025 and sometime in the 2020s, respectively. But it’s frustrating and confusing that they would be so far behind the curve. Mercedes-Benz, arguably one of their competitors, is about to get the jump on them with the Mercedes-Benz EQS launching this year, which is being marketed as the S-Class of electric cars. And Mercedes will undoubtedly have more EVs on the market when these two British brands finally get around to launching their firsts.
It just doesn’t seem like these two brands are as serious as they should be about going electric — not serious enough given the competition, and not serious enough for the environment. And until they do get serious, maybe they should ease up on the bragging about sustainably sourced wood trim.