LONDON -- Aston Martin has signed a deal worth 50 million pounds ($77.2 million) with a Chinese investor to build an electric version of its Rapide four-door sedan.
The deal with venture capital firm ChinaEquity will help the UK sports car maker to meet tough upcoming fleet fuel-economy targets in China.
China's corporate-average fuel consumption (CAFC) is "one of the most arduous in the world," Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer said. "If we want to continue to selling V-12 [gasoline cars] we need a low-emission option,” he said.
Phase 4 of CAFC demands that automakers meet a fleet average economy of 5 liters per 100 km (56 mpg UK, 47 mpg U.S.) by 2020.
The electric Rapide, called the RapidE, will go on sale globally by the end of 2017, Palmer told Automotive News Europe.
He said his goal was to produce a high-performance version making between 800hp and 1000hp. “That’s the task I’ve set. Can it be achieved? I don’t know but I don’t normally fail,” he said. Palmer was a key executive behind the development of the Nissan Leaf electric car while he was working for the Japanese brand before moving to Aston Martin last year.
An Aston Martin spokesman said the Rapide was the obvious choice as the automaker's first electric car. “The Rapide is the most commercially attractive and practical car in our range to electrify,” he said.
The electric drivetrain will be developed by the customer arm of the Williams Formula 1 team based in Oxfordshire, central England. Williams Advanced Engineering was set up originally to build the Jaguar C-X75 hybrid supercar before it was cancelled in 2012.
The RapidE will be made in Aston Martin’s factory in Gaydon, central England.
Palmer said Aston Martin also planned to produce electric versions of the upcoming DBX SUV expected in 2019 and possibly the luxury Lagonda sedan after that.
ChinaEquity already has a stake in the automaker through its shares in a company run by one of Aston Martin’s largest investors, Italian firm InvestIndustrial. An Aston Martin spokesman said this deal will not increase its stake.
Last year Asia was Aston Martin's fourth-biggest market after the U.S, UK and mainland Europe.