The current-generation Bentley Mulsanne could get an all-electric powertrain to meet the increasingly stringent demands of global emissions regulations.
Speaking exclusively to Autocar at a customer demonstration of the new Mulsanne Extended Wheelbase, Mulsanne product and marketing manager Hans Holzgartner said an all-electric powertrain was already under consideration. He cited draft paperwork from Chinese law makers as a motivating factor to push it into production.
“At the moment, the indication is that full electric will be the only way that you’ll get into some of the cities in China,” he said. “I wouldn’t say we’re discounting [hybrid engines] completely, but it looks like if you don’t have a full electric drive, even some of the hybrid drives just won’t get into some cities in China.”
Holzgartner made reference to movements for similar legislation in some parts of Europe, Germany being the latest to voice its intentions to encourage a zero-emissions future. To cater for these key markets, the car’s current use of a petrol V8 engine was unsustainable, he added.
Asked if an all-electric powertrain would suit the characteristics of the Mulsanne, Holzgartner said: “Yes, absolutely. I think electric is much better suited to bigger, heavier, smoother saloon cars than sports cars.”
He said sports cars can be hampered by heavy battery packs and lose character when swapping high-revving engines for electric motors, but cars focused on offering a comfortable, luxurious ride like the Mulsanne can actually be improved by such a powertrain.
“With a Mulsanne-sized car, it’s all about torque anyway,” he added. “The delivery characteristics of electric drive — loads of bottom-end torque, almost silent delivery, very smooth — they all fit.
“Our challenge is to make something that’s as interesting to drive as a current Bentley, because while a Mulsanne will be driven in almost silent mode even with a petrol engine, if you’ve got a Mulsanne Speed you’ll want to let rip every so often. That’s going to be the challenge: creating something that can be fun as well.”
Holzgartner mentioned the deep, bellowing engine note of modern Mulsannes, saying he personally preferred the V8’s sound to alternative engines, such as the W12. An electric motor would have to somehow offer something to cater for this loss of “character”.
He said: “But for most customers, particularly those going into big cities in China where you’re doing a lot of sitting in traffic, an electric powertrain will suit it just fine.”