Luxury is often antithetical to environmentalism, though British automaker Bentley is looking to prove this doesn't have to be the case. As part of its Beyond 100 corporate strategy, the company is aiming to be end-to-end carbon neutral by the year 2030, and make its operations center in Crewe, England, climate-positive soon afterwards. But that's not all.
This blue-chip car brand, which is owned by Volkswagen Group, is pushing forward with a range of other programs designed to make it even more eco-friendly. Bentley announced Thursday that by 2026 it will move to a fully electrified product range, with all its models featuring either pure-EV or plug-in hybrid drivetrains. Just four years after that, in 2030, it's aiming to make its whole lineup fully electric. This concerted push toward battery-powered vehicles is noteworthy because today, Bentley is the largest manufacturer of 12-cylinder, gasoline-burning power plants in the world. "[We] will not be building engines in less than a decade," noted Adrian Hallmark, Bentley's chairman and chief executive officer, during an online presentation. If it can manage that, it will signal a tectonic shift for the brand.
Kicking things off, two plug-in hybrid models are scheduled to launch next year. Beyond that, this famous brand is committed to offering every model with a hybrid powertrain by 2023. Its first pure-electric vehicle, which should also be cradle-to-grave carbon neutral, is expected to launch just two years later. Also by 2025, Bentley is gunning to reduce the environmental impact of its factories by 75% compared to 2010. The moves come as the UK government is set to ban new gasoline-powered cars by 2035 at the latest, and possibly sooner.
The theme here is sustainable luxury. Going beyond powertrains, Bentley will also explore using alternative materials in its vehicles. The EXP 100 GT concept car, for instance, is trimmed with 5,000-year-old preserved wood and features woolen carpets as well as upholstery that's made from a byproduct of wine-making. Expect the automaker's future vehicles to offer similar materials.
As Bentley pushes forward toward a greener future, some might worry that its vehicles will end up with styling like a Toyota Prius or something, but this shouldn't be a concern. "Our cars will look as glorious and inspirational as they do today," promised Hallmark. Good news for fans of these regal automobiles.
Beyond all this, Bentley is also making some important corporate changes. The automaker wants to transform its management team to be significantly more diverse than it is today.
It's fascinating to watch such a traditional automaker reinvent itself in the 21st century. But with luck, Bentley will be able to prove that luxury and sustainability can go hand in hand.