Driving the Aston Martin Rapidw around the Williams Advanced Engineering parking lot is a fun but rather useless exercise. This car is purely their proof of concept, a mule quickly launched for demonstration purposes. The first engineering prototypes will come out next year, with the final product on the streets in 2019. And while the brand’s first electric model could be a limited edition of only 155 units, this shows what Aston is aiming for in the next decade. The 2019 Aston Martin Rapide on the lightest and tightest version, the AMR, with a transmission from Williams, the best name in the Rimac sector. This is not a bad recipe.
Aston CEO Andy Palmer says his company is not trying to beat Tesla mainly because he does not consider a fully charged S model competing for the luxury car that Aston is currently develop. He also says that even though a Tesla can be fast once or twice per charge, the RapidE’s powertrain is designed to deliver high performance across its driving range, like a Formula E car, something Williams knows. That said, the 250 mile distance claimed by the RapidE probably only occurs with a civilized foot.
Although recognizable as Rapide, the hatchback long hatchback that Aston spun from the DB9 test mule we drive is far from the legal street. The donor car first served as an engineering mule during the initial development of the conventional power-driven Rapide, so it was at least eight years old and underwent significant paving to accommodate a new electric powertrain. Opening the hood reveals the obvious difference: a battery locked in a black box crouches into the space previously occupied by the V-12 engine. This pack is so big that some firewall operations were needed to get it in, effectively preventing the car from anything other than low speed operation. Other factors that impede the legality of the street include non-functional wipers and turn signals, both of which are lost with the partial transition to a new electrical architecture. The digital dashboard still works, communicating speed and speed information, but accompanied by a scrolling panel of warnings and status messages on the right side. Like the best prototypes of vehicles, there is also a big red emergency button in the middle of the cabin.
Williams and Aston are suspicious of the exact configuration of the powertrain for this prototype. We are told that a single engine drives the rear axle through a direct drive gearbox, with an inverter installed where the transaxle mounts normally. The current battery has a capacity of about 30 kWh and is closely related to the lithium-ion pack designed by Williams that fitted previous generations of Formula E racers. We do not have any power output for the electric motor or performance claims, for reasons that are quickly obvious.