The carmaker's well-heeled clientele are demanding something electric.
As global automotive brands go, Bentley has been reluctant to follow its peers - even those who also belong to the monolithic Volkswagen Group - in pursuing pure-electric propulsion with any urgency.
But that's not for a lack of demand; brand CEO Adrian Hallmark told Top Gear recently that Bentley's clientele are perfectly eager for the luxury marque to begin offering sustainable, emissions-free vehicles.
"It's fascinating," Hallmark says. "We had a customer dinner to launch the Bacalar. They were all collectors. All passionate about their cars. But they are equally passionate about the future of cars. They want them to be environmentally and ethically sustainable. They are looking for transparency, a decarbonized powertrain and sustainable interior materials."
As a matter of fact, Hallmark says, 39 percent of luxury car buyers are actively shopping for an electric car, reflecting a sizable portion of the market. And despite its reluctance to get started, Bentley is nonetheless determined to be the first marque under the Volkswagen umbrella to become 100 percent carbon neutral.
"We have the best opportunity to get there first, as Bentley," Hallmark says. "People want the most exotic traditional technology. But for their daily driving car they want the right kind of new product and will pay a premium for it."
So why is Bentley holding back? Battery technology. In past interviews with the press, Hallmark has suggested that battery technology is not yet sufficiently evolved to power a Bentley vehicle satisfactorily, as the marque has no intention of giving up its traditionally large, heavy design aesthetic.
"We will launch our first battery electric vehicle in the middle of the 2020s because we anticipate in five years the increase in power density - or the introduction of solid state batteries - will allow a 30 per cent-plus improvement in performance," Hallmark told Top Gear.
However, before that date finally arrives, Bentley could dip its toes into the EV pool with a special high-price, limited-driving-range coachbuilt Mulliner - perhaps even a recreation of one of its classics.
"We've been asked if we could 'build a car exactly like an R-Type Continental that's also fully electric and I don't care if it's got 100 miles range, thank you very much,'" Hallmark says. "The answer is 'yes we could.'"