The world is changing in 2020, not least of all because of our response to the Covid-19 pandemic, but also because tackling climate change means the way we all live will be transformed dramatically over the next 10-20 years.
This is certainly true in the way we will get around, and while SA is far behind when it comes to innovations such as electric vehicles, the automotive industry is moving into a higher gear as it enters a major period of transition. It’s not just about being shuttled around the streets of Sandton in an autonomous Uber pod either, because the luxury market is also planning big changes.
Bentley has announced it will be ending production of models using internal combustion engines by 2030, an announcement that came even before the UK government declared it would be banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in the same year. Bentley will be launching two new plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) in 2021, and by 2026 its full range will be either PHEV or pure battery-electric ahead of the end of its ice age in 2030.
The company will launch its first battery-electric vehicle (BEV) in 2025, expected to be based on the EXP100 concept it showed a couple of years ago. However, it goes beyond just the cars, with the company’s factory and head office already being carbon neutral.
“Driving this change includes, and also goes beyond, our products, delivering a paradigm shift throughout our business, with credibility, authenticity and integrity,” says Adrian Hallmark, chair and CEO of Bentley Motors. “Within a decade, Bentley will transform from a 100-year-old luxury car company to a new, sustainable, wholly ethical role model for luxury.”
Bentley might be setting itself up as a poster child for the transition to carbon neutrality, but luxury motoring is about much more than just propulsion systems. It’s also about materials and where once a luxury car was defined in part by the quality of its wooden veneers or sumptuous leather, it’s quickly becoming about the eco-friendliness of materials.
That’s not as easy as it might sound. After all, materials such as leather have defined the interior of luxury cars for well over a century. But now we are seeing car mats made from recycled plastic bottles and fishing nets, seats using recycled material and dashboards made from hemp. It’s all being achieved without compromising on luxury too, without sacrificing the sumptuous feel of the seats and the soft touch of materials in touch points such as doors and consoles.
Almost every car company is looking at doing things very differently, and where change can happen quickly, it will. Developing new powertrains takes time, but switching materials can be done much quicker, as we have seen with companies such as BMW, Land Rover and Volvo.
In the ultra-luxurious world of brands such as Bentley and Rolls-Royce, it’s easier to provide customers with even more choice. The range of bespoke options is almost infinite, so it’s entirely up to you whether you want traditional materials or would rather go the sustainable route. In the coming years, it’s clear that choosing the latter will be more commonplace, but whichever route you take, luxury is never going to mean compromising.