Aston Martin is using its upcoming Valhalla high-performance plug-in hybrid to develop a playbook for its future EVs.
Executives said the 937-horsepower Valhalla supercar on display at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance Sunday shows lessons in driver engagement, visual effects and sound that could appear in its first EV by 2025.
“If we get that performance hybrid recipe right, we could see that reflected in the range later on,” said Alex Long, head of product and market strategy for Aston Martin Lagonda.
When developing the mid-engined two-seater, Valhalla’s engineers were particularly concerned with preserving the brand’s racetrack-ready driving dynamics. Electric vehicles can feel less appealing if the driver surrenders control to the electrical systems and advanced driver assistance functions that control them.
“EVs are more of a daily driver and less of a weekend thrill,” Long said.
Engineers aimed to put the driver back in control of the Valhalla’s hybrid powertrain, which combines a twin-turbo V8 with two e-motors, by introducing “a little oversteer and a lot of feedback from the front” among other things.
“One thing we’ve done very carefully is to match the car’s reactions back to the driver,” he said. “If you support the ride too much, there’s a degree of disconnection.”
Electric motors provide faster acceleration, but hybrids and EVs are heavier and less maneuverable than their petrol-powered counterparts. The extra weight of the battery drivetrain presented several challenges for the Valhalla, including figuring out how to change direction quickly without overloading the braking system.
Valhalla is also pioneering exterior design for the brand’s electric portfolio, said Chief Creative Officer Marek Reichman. The body features both painted and carbon surfaces to create shadows that make the car appear to move when stationary.
“There has to be a good visual balance, so how do you break a car, whether it’s the color of the carbon or the body, or how do you paint it to give the electrification a vernacular? I think it should have its own language.”
Also sound came in to play. Historically, engine noise has been crucial to the perception of a sports car’s performance. “It’s a big challenge with EVs because you lose a lot of the emotion with the sound quality, and you don’t have to go through that stepping process,” Long said.
The Valhalla is “almost silent operation” in EV mode, he added. “All the noise will come from the V8, which will be loud.”