Aston Martin is using its upcoming Valhalla high-performance plug-in hybrid to develop a playbook for its future EVs.
Executives said that the 937-horsepower Valhalla supercar exhibited at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance showcases lessons in driver engagement, visual effects and sound that could surface in its first EV in 2025.
“If we get that performance hybrid recipe right, it’s something we could see elsewhere later on in the range,” said Alex Long, head of product and market strategy for Aston Martin Lagonda.
The Valhalla’s engineers were especially concerned with retaining the brand’s racetrack-ready driving dynamics when developing the mid-engine two seater, he said. Electric vehicles can feel less engaging as the driver cedes control to the electrical systems and advanced driver assistance functions that govern them.
“EVs are more like daily drivers and less of a weekend thrill," Long said.
Engineers strived to put the driver back in control of the Valhalla’s hybrid powertrain, which combines a twin-turbo V8 with two e-motors, by dialing in “a little bit of oversteer and lots of feedback from the front end,” among other tweaks.
“One thing we've been very careful to do is with tuning the responses of the car back to the driver,” he said. “If you over assist the drive, then there's a level of disengagement.”
Electric motors provide quicker acceleration, but hybrids and EVs are heavier and tend to be less nimble than their gas-engine counterparts. The additional weight from the battery powertrain presented several challenges for the Valhalla, including figuring out how to change direction quickly without overloading the brake system.
The Valhalla is also pioneering the exterior design for the brand’s electrified portfolio, said Chief Creative Officer Marek Reichman. Its body displays both painted and carbon surfaces to create shadows that help make the car appear to be in motion when 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 color, or paint it to give a vernacular to electrification? I think it has to have its own language.”
Sound, too, came into 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 that step process of gearing up,” Long said.
The Valhalla is “a nearly silent operation” in EV mode, he added. “All of the noise will come from the V8, which is going to be loud.”