What James Bond's Old Aston Martin Teaches Us Today

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It’s a time-tested feeling: we live in the future, but despite its bountiful technology, we long for the past, and the simpler, more mechanical joys it represents. Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element covered it, but its concept exists at the root of many stories. From Wall-E to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, to the Back to the Future trilogy, our narrative storytelling has always somehow predicted that in the age of immense technological automatization, we’d somehow begin to turn towards those simpler things that brought our past alive. Our world’s imaginative storytellers have known this for a while, yet we seldom see an interaction between this older, perhaps more charming technology, and the newer, sleeker and faster gadgets our scientists manage to develop. With the consumption of older technology, like record players and film cameras increasing and the charm of “retro” strong as ever, that is rapidly set to change, the winds of innovation set ablaze by one of the automotive industry’s most beloved car-makers: Aston Martin

The British carmaker, founded in 1913 by Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford announced last week that it will be commencing a “Heritage EV” program. Though that may sound like little else than a hashtag for retro sports car enthusiasts to discuss their prized possessions, it is much, much more. The “Heritage EV” program, instead, is one which is set to allow owners of classic Aston Martin cars to have their vehicles equipped with an all-new, all-electric powertrain. That is to say, owners of antique Aston Martin vehicles, like the beautiful 1970 DB6, or a stunning V8 Vantage, or Sean Connery’s choice in Goldfinger, the DB5, will, in a near future, be able to have their cars equipped with a powertrain that is purely electric and no longer reliant only on internal combustion. 

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The powertrain, the part of the car in question, is a term used in the automotive industry to describe the main components of the vehicle structure that allow it to both generate power and deliver that power onto the road. Naturally, this portion of the car is a massive and crucial one, for in it lays the engine, the transmission, the drive shafts and the differentials, all essential to a car’s delivery of power. What the program aims to do, essentially, is remove all parts of the powertrain that use internal combustion, and replace them with an entirely electric, and hence eco-friendly alternative. 

Of course, when dealing with vehicles coming close to their 50th birthday, this is no simple task. Older engines, like that of the DB6, are massive and characterized by incredibly inefficient consumption of petrol, but removing them from the powertrain altogether poses an interesting challenge. Luckily, Aston Martin managed to find the answer to their structural problems in-house. Over the last five years, they’ve been busy conceptualizing the Rapide E, an all-electric sportswear set to hit the markets next year, which is set to use a forma of high performing electric batteries in place of a motor. Of course, the application of this battery based technology to a car motor is no news, rather, it is the conceptual basis upon which the entire electric car industry is built. However, what Aston Martin promises to have figured out, for the very first time, is how to retroactively use these battery packs to power older cars in place of their usual, petrol guzzling motor. 

Naturally, all of their older, niche vehicles are going to need detailed, personalized conversion plans. Yet, the technology, and the know-how seems to be promising. By replacing the manual gearbox and engine with battery packs and an electric gearbox, the powertrain, now free from all petrol, should suffer no damage at all, yielding antique cars that, underneath their intricate bonnets, combust the fuel of the future. 

To some petrol enthusiasts, this might appear as the highest form of treason. To others, though, it might seem like an innovative way to bring out the sub-optimal esthetic flavor that has marked us as humans, even in an age where everything shoots towards absolute optimization. Regardless, automakers like Aston Martin are left little choice, as a growing number of cities around the world finally tightens their grip on internal combustion engines. This, an attempt at improving air quality is a fundamental legislative tassel in the everlasting fight against our own damage to the planet, but it leaves certain companies, like Aston Martin itself, playing catch-up. Who wants a beautiful vintage Aston if they can’t drive it around town?

With the “Heritage EV” program, which follows the uncertain steps of other companies, like Porsche and Range Rover, that have implemented similar concepts in their management of classic cars, a vintage car becomes future ready. The program, which is by far the most promising in its class, then serves a noble triple purpose. First, it renders a classic, beautiful car, newly viable and usable, in a way that has no impact on the surrounding environment. Then, in doing that, it crafts the technological foundation necessary to apply this, with lower costs, on a global scale, making the idea of keeping your old car despite its petrol guzzling habits a newly viable option. Third, by applying this novel conversion technology to such titans of petrol history, it seems to somehow make the move towards electricity a much, much sweeter pill to swallow. Surely, the motorists alarmed by the “loss of personality” in cars brought on by their “electrification”, can find some solace in knowing that no, a beautiful DB6 does not lose its elemental characters only because its powertrain is replaced by a new and more efficient one. Rather, it turns the DB6 into a beautiful encounter of future and past, combining the beautiful, romantic aura of days flown by with the efficient power of days to come. 

An electric DB6, picture from Aston Martin.

An electric DB6, picture from Aston Martin.

Aston Martin, then, joins Tesla, VW, and many others as the carmakers of the future, applying their newest technologies to make the leap away from petrol as painless and beautiful as it can possibly be.