Aston Martin is using its upcoming Valhalla high-performance plug-in hybrid to develop a playbook for its future EVs.
Executives said that Valhalla supercar with 937 horsepower on display at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance on Sunday, shows lessons in driver engagement, visual effects and sound that could appear in the first EV in 2025.
“If we get this hybrid recipe right, it’s something we could see elsewhere later in the range,” said Alex Long, head of product and market strategy for Aston Martin Lagonda.
Valhalla engineers were particularly concerned about preserving the brand’s track-ready driving dynamics when developing the mid-engine two-seater, he said. Electric vehicles can feel less engaging as the driver relinquishes control to the electric systems and advanced driver assistance features that operate them.
“Electric cars are more like daily drivers and less like weekend thrills,” Long said.
Engineers are looking to return driver control to the Valhalla’s hybrid powertrain, which combines a twin-turbo V8 with two e-motors, by dialing in “little oversteer and a lot of front-end feedback,” among other tweaks.
“One thing we’ve been very careful about is tuning the car’s responses back to the driver,” he said. “If you over-assist driving, then there’s a level of disconnect.”
Electric motors provide faster acceleration, hybrids and EVs are heavier and tend to be less nimble than their gas-powered counterparts. The extra weight from the battery drive presents several challenges, including figuring out how to quickly change direction without overloading the braking system.
Valhalla also pioneered exterior design for the brand’s electrified portfolio, said chief creative officer Marek Reichmann. Its bodywork features both painted and carbon surfaces to create shadows that help the car look like it’s in motion when it’s standing still.
“There has to be a great visual balance, so how do you break up the car, whether it’s the carbon or the body colour, or paint it to give a vernacular of electrification? I think it should have its own language.
Sound also came into play. Historically, engine noise has been crucial to the perception of a sports car’s performance. “That’s a big challenge with electric cars because you lose a lot of the emotion with the sound quality and you don’t have that stage of preparation,” 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.”