Rolls-Royce Is Putting Serious Thought Into Electric Vehicles
Seven years ago, Rolls-Royce rolled out the Phantom Experimental Electric 102EX Concept at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show. Then things turned quiet in Crewe. Outside of CEO Torsten Muller hinting at the possibility of an EV Rolls in 2015, we haven’t heard a peep about the company’s electric car plans since the 102EX broke cover. That changed recently when a high-ranking BMW board member admitted that the Spirit of Ecstasy could go electric real soon.
It’s no secret that increasingly stringent emissions regulations are forcing automakers to adapt. And while efficiency has always been a top priority for large-volume commuter vehicles, expensive luxury brands seem to be struggling to make the adjustment. Traditionally, top-shelf marques have favored opulence and excess over more economical alternatives, but now that might not be an option. As such, Rolls-Royce appears to be once again considering production of an all-electric car.
According to Automotive News, Rolls-Royce CEO Torsten Muller-Otvos recently said, “Suppose we find a battery technology that can offer ranges that are acceptable to our customers. I can definitely imagine a fully electric Rolls-Royce.”
Over the past five years, all-electric vehicles have seen rapid growth in terms of development, support, and demand. Battery technology has improved immensely, bringing greater capacity, faster recharge times, and lower cost, while public charging station networks continue to expand their reach. All these factors help justify the move towards electrification.
However, Muller-Otvos went on to say that no final decision has been made on whether or not Rolls-Royce would go forward with an all-electric (or even hybrid) vehicle in the future.
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For all the attention electric cars have generated over the years, one niche group has never dared to tread those waters out of fear that they would compromise the luxurious and old-world lineage these brands are so often associated with. Well, it looks like one luxury automaker is prepared to dive into uncharted waters after Rolls-Royce announced that the brand will be developing an all-electric version of the Phantom.
The car, which has been dubbed the Rolls-Royce Phantom Experimental Electric (EE) or the 102EX, was recently revealed at the Geneva Motor Show and will serve as a test vehicle for the brand to gather as much relevant data as possible with the hopes of determining whether jumping through the electric car world will prove to be a worthy endeavor.
According to Rolls-Royce, the extensive testing done on the 102 EX, which comes with a revolutionary wireless charging system called ’induction charging’, will also cover a number of public test drives for potential customers to give them the opportunity to experience the company’s alternative drivetrain technology first-hand and provide that all-important customer feedback. Rolls-Royce explains ’induction charging as a technology that allows the car’s battery to be charged by just parking it over special pads buried in the ground. This process uses magnetic coupling instead of a regular cable with a 90% efficiency.
UPDATE 03/03/11: This review has been updated with the Rolls-Royce Phantom Experimental Electric 102EX’s specs, as well as new images.
UPDATE 07/04/11: The Rolls-Royce Phantom Experimental Electric 102EX isn’t headed for production, but that hasn’t stopped the British luxury maker from proceeding with the testing phase for the electric Phantom. According to Rolls-Royce, the tests have nonetheless given important data on the workings of the car’s battery and management systems, important elements considering that despite its concept status, the Phantom 102EX could still end up in production down the road.
After the luxury car builders from Germany Audi and Mercedes Benz unveiled their electric super car concepts at the Frankfurt Motor show, it looks like the luxury super car builder Rolls Royce is planning a shocking ride of their own. Apparently back at the Goodwood revival a spokesman for the classic English brand turned German owned coachbuilder has been toying around with the idea of a battery powered Rolls Royce Phantom. The Phantom is one of the unique cars that could actually see some weight savings by replacing the rather large gas burning V12 power plant with a lithium ion battery pack, not that the bulky electric motors would make much of a difference to the current luxury sedan’s nearly three ton curb weight.
The obvious benefits of an electric car that would fit in perfectly with Rolls Royce’s perfect passenger experience like an almost silent ride, zero emission operation and loads of torque that will be instantaneously available starting at 0 RPM, perfectly suiting the luxury brand’s wafting acceleration. The only problem that we foresee with an all electric Phantom, and is the same for any battery powered vehicle, is how will the German engineers be able to give the large luxury sedan a suitable range due to the weight of the components that are driven by the flow of electrons.
Perhaps Rolls Royce’s parent company, BMW can figure out how to fit the working parts of the new Vision EfficientDynamics Concept underneath the coach built bodywork of a next generation Phantom. Perhaps the answer to an all electric super car is a small displacement diesel engine with its incredible range and efficiency is the ideal solution to keeping the ultra low emissions hybrid luxury vehicle running long after any lithium ion battery would run out.
Rolls-Royce owners are usually known more for their excess. So when the luxury brand began investigating the benefits of an electric car, Mother Earth was that last thing on its mind. Instead the silence and power curve that come with an electric motor has Rolls seeing green.
"We stand for unmatched refinement and you can’t get a quieter and less intrusive engine than a well engineered electric motor. Truly, the loudest noise you would hear would be the tick of the clock," says Rolls-Royce CEO Tom Purves. "We also stand for strong and instant torque – and an electric motor delivers maximum torque instantly."
If an electric Rolls-Royce were to appear, it would likely borrow the technology that its parent company BMW is developing for cars like the electric Mini. One event that may tip the scales in favor of an electric Phantom would be if urban areas begin to tax or limit vehicles with high emissions. Similar taxation like the congestion tax increase that was struck down in London could have the ulta-rich plugging in their Rollers.