Aston Martin Rapide E: new details of electric super-saloon

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Aston claims it has engineered the Rapide E for “repeatable performance”, meaning the quoted acceleration figures can be achieved in quick succession without the performance degregation seen in similar EVs. The top speed of 155mph (hence the release of just 155 units globally) can reportedly be maintained continuously for 10 minutes. ​

The powertrain underneath the Rapide E, engineered by Williams Advanced Engineering and assembled at a new facility in Coventry, uses a cutting-edge 800V electrical architecture. The technology will allow the Rapide E to offer a 350-mile-per-hour charge rate, allowing it to make use of forthcoming 350kWh DC chargers. 

 

Williams Advanced Engineering technical director Paul McNamara on the Rapide E – interview

When did you first get involved?

“We’ve been very active in working with OEMs on battery technology and we did some work with Nissan and Andy Palmer [former Nissan chief planning officer and now Aston CEO] had been involved in that work. When he moved over to Aston Martin, he had a very clear vision of electrification as a route the company needed to go down. He was well aware of our activity and brought us into the company, starting with the very first project electric Rapid with Formula E power. We then came up with the idea of getting an APC grant to get the development done. That journey has been two and a bit years.”

Are you championing British suppliers with the powertrain in the Rapide E?

“We are a small one, but like any automotive manufacturer, we do bring in parts from Europe. [For] this particular battery, because it’s quite low volume, quite specialist, we are leaning quite heavily on the suppliers we use in the UK. At least 90% of everything bar the cells is a UK supply.”

Why mount two motors on the rear axle instead of spreading them across both axles?

“Very much the brief for the whole thing was that we don’t really want to change the Rapide at all, as it is a limited-volume car. The affordability of the project is dependent on carrying it over. What we had to do is carry over a rear-wheel-drive platform. We also wanted to give it Rapide power, plus a bit, so two motors was the sensible solution.”

Is it less practical? 

“The boot has changed, but the overall boot volume is very similar. Aston were very keen to keep the car’s practicality.”

How much does the Rapide E weigh?

“It is virtually identical to the standard car. That’s why you can see a lot of cost engineered into it, with a carbonfibre frame and materials such as Kevlar. The powertrain is approximately the same weight, all in, to the V12 and gearbox that has been taken out.”

What is the car’s range?

“The target was that it had to be more than 200 miles on the NEDC cycle. We’re pretty comfortable that it’ll be in the region of 230 miles. We had to have performance, weight and range as similar as possible to the standard Rapide.”

What are the benefits of the 800V architecture?

“The big benefit is weight: you’re operating at a lower current with less conductive material needed. Aston was also adamant that it wanted to do this project to gain engineering knowledge and development for future cars, such as those in the Lagonda range. So an 800V system is future-proofing in terms of the latest charging tech.”

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