Rolls-Royce will launch an all-electric version of the new, eighth-generation Phantom. The Goodwood-based company, famed for producing the most luxurious automobiles in existence, has said the desire to build an electric version of its flagship vehicle is in direct response to customer demand in China and Los Angeles.
Rolls-Royce CEO Torsten Müller-Otvös has already been on record explaining the company would not develop hybrid powertrains, describing such an initiative as both a stop-gap and a compromise for a brand unwilling to compromise. Instead, the company would develop its electrified offerings, using customer clinics and design projects such as the 103EX Concept.
According to Phantom product manager Christian Wettach, battery technology is advancing at such a rate that the car’s all-new aluminium platform has had to be future-proofed to accommodate an all-electric powertrain. With mega cities continuing to enforce stricter emissions regulations and the previous-generation Rolls-Royce Phantom (VII) remaining on sale for 14 years, this is good planning.
Speaking with Motor1, Wettach said, 'Today, using existing battery tech, an all-electric Phantom could probably produce a range of around 120 miles. This isn’t acceptable. Rolls-Royce wouldn’t commit to an electric Phantom until we could provide a 300-mile range, and we could offer a rapid charging system that would allow our customers to gain 180 miles for 30 minutes of charge, or a full charge in around an hour. This is where we need to be.'
Next-generation ‘solid state’ battery technology could be one solution, as is being pioneered by Toyota – it promises more energy density, faster charge times and lower risk of fire compared with current high-performance lithium-ion batteries. Yet even the current performance of lithium-ion cells is doubling every four years making them, on this trajectory, a viable solution.
When asked if an electric Phantom could express the same ultimate automotive statement as the company’s peerless V12, it’s clear Wettach and the company see a horizon for the internal combustion engine. 'In many ways, the powertrain we have now – a twin-turbocharged 6.75-litre V12 – is trying to emulate the quiet, seamless performance of an electric powertrain.'
After our recent experience in the new Phantom, we can concur. Not only does maximum torque start from a lowly 1,700rpm, it’s married to an eight-speed automatic gearbox that is aided by navigation, meaning each gearshift is predicted for the road ahead and seemingly imperceptible. It’s quieter than an electric car, too.
For now, both electric and petrol versions will co-exist, thus extending the appeal of what remains the world’s best car. And, as has always been the case with Rolls, it’s rarely about what you wear, but indeed how you wear it.