The times, as a Mr. Zimmerman once wrote, they are a changin'. These days, the world seems to be shifting so quickly, it can be hard to keep track of what's happening and when. But in the world of automobiles, one thing is for certain: the era of electric vehicles is arriving — and if anything, the transition away from internal combustion is only going to accelerate in the years to come.
Still, even in this era of electric Hummers and ubiquitous Teslas, Bentley's announcement that it will be abandoning gasoline power entirely in favor of electric cars by 2030 managed to be a bit of a, ahem, shock.
The announcement was the marquee piece of news from Bentley's "Beyond 100" online press conference on Thursday, in which the 101-year-old carmaker discussed its plans for the future. By 2026, Bentley says, every new car it sells will be either a plug-in hybrid or an electric vehicle; four years later, the PHEVs will be phased out as well, leaving the Bentley lineup with nary a combustion chamber to be found.
The timeline is rather aggressive, considering Bentley currently offers exactly one PHEV and zero EVs. To that end, the carmaker says it will roll out two new plug-in hybrids in 2021. Considering Bentley currently only offers three models, and the Bentayga already comes in PHEV form, it seems likely the next ones will be the Flying Spur and Continental GT. (Given those cars' common platform with the Porsche Panamera, we're guessing they'll share the 2021 Panamera 4S E-Hybrid's 552-hp setup.)
The first all-electric Bentley should follow a few years later, arriving in 2025, according to the company. The carmaker says its EXP 100 GT concept car, revealed last year, "previewed" the electrified future, so while many of its wilder features like the ginormous scissor doors likely won't reach production, don't be surprised if that first EV at least bears a passing resemblance to that giant two-door.
The powertrain moves are just one part of Bentley's broader push towards sustainability, which is set to ramp up even further in the next decade. By 2030, the brand is aiming to become end-to-end carbon neutral, meaning every aspect of the business should result in no additional CO2 being pumped into the atmosphere. (Indeed, by the end of the decade, Bentley says its factory should actually be climate-positive — pulling more CO2 out of the air than it creates.) The carmaker also plans to increase its reliance on sustainable materials over the next few years as part of its effort to minimize its environmental impact. It also intends to increase the diversity of its management by roughly 50 percent over the next five years, which, while not a global warming-related issue, is certainly worthy of note.
Of course, this does mean that the days of Bentley's current dynamic powerplants — the breathtaking twin-turbo W12 and the amazingly well-rounded twin-turbo V8 — are very clearly numbered. Then again, if cars like the Porsche Taycan are any indication, the EVs of tomorrow will hardly be a disappointment.