From £318,120
Surge of forward motion is so relentless that it makes the Phantom’s V12 seem utterly redundant

Our Verdict

Rolls-Royce Phantom
The Phantom Series II receives a number of useful tweaks over the original car

The Rolls-Royce Phantom comes with opulence befitting its huge price tag. It is the benchmark for ride quality

What is it?

This is the Rolls Royce 102EX, or Phantom Experimental Electric. It’s a one-off engineering test-bed which sees the standard 6.75-litre V12 engine and autobox replaced by a huge battery pack and twin-electric motors driving the rear wheels.

Rolls Royce says the the 102EX will spend the rest of the year on a global tour with the aim of getting feedback from ‘owners, VIPs, media and enthusiasts’.

The 71kWh battery pack is made up of a NCM (Lithium-Nickel-Cobalt-Manganese-Oxide) pouch cells. There’s a total of 96 cells weighing 640kg, 90kg more than the combined weight of the conventional engine and transmission.

Three separate 3kW charger units are fitted to the battery pack and it takes 20 hours to recharge the huge battery. Using a three-phase electrical supply it takes eight hours for a full charge.

The 102EX also features induction charging, using an induction pad mounted under the floor. Positioning the car over a transmitter pad, installed in the road surface allows the battery to be recharged across a gap of 150mm.

This giant battery pack drives a pair of electric motors, which are mounted on the rear subframe, and housed inside water jackets, themselves chilled by coolant piped down from the radiator.

The motors drive a single ratio transmission with an integrated differential. Each motor is rated at 145kW but, more importantly, together they also deliver a whopping 590lb ft of torque from standstill. Although the power from the motors is 48kW down on the equivalent power from the V12, the torque peak is 59lb ft, or 11 percent, up.

The 102EX’s drivetrain offers two strengths of retardation once the driver lifts off the accelerator pedal. ‘Standard’ offers 120Nm of regenerative braking force and ‘Low’ a more neck-testing 210Nm.

What’s it like?

In truth, this electric drivetrain delivers on the Rolls Royce promise more completely than any internal combustion engine could ever manage.

Although the standard-issue V12 engine is a refined as any engine installation on sale today, and does a very impressive job of mustering up the required rising wall of near-silent torque, it’s the way that the torque of the electric motors move the 102EX down the road that is the game-changer.

The surge of forward motion is so uncannily seamless and relentless that your first instinct is that the Phantom’s V12 motor is rendered instantly redundant.

There are two big advantages over internal combustion engines, even one as refined as the Phantom’s V12. Firstly, at speed and under hard acceleration, you can really sense the lack of mechanical reciprocation behind the bulkhead. The second is the unhindered stream of torque, not just because of the characteristics of electric motors, but because of the lack of ratio swapping.

On the winding backroads of West Sussex, the car was quite uncannily relaxing. Ironically, in a car where the owner might spend all of his time in the rear seat, the pleasure is delivered to the driver.

That’s not to say that the Phantom is much of a B-road animal. The steering on this one-off was rather over-light and the position of the front inside wheel wasn’t quite obvious. However, the ride quality over sudden potholes was slightly better in the 102EX than it was in the standard-issue Phantom I tried back-to-back with the electric car.

Perhaps the biggest problem for a future electric Phantom is the fact that the refinement of the cabin results in tyre noise becoming much more obvious to passengers.

Should I buy one?

You can’t. And I’d be surprised if the 102EX progressed much further than a handful being produced for big corporate Phantom customers, such as the Peninsula Hotels Group.

The obvious problem with the 102EX is its mediocre range and even more hopeless recharging time, unless you happen to have access to a industrial-strength electricity supply. Even the current engineering estimates are for a three-year life for the battery pack, given a daily cycling.

Rolls Royce, an understandably cautious company, doesn’t need to spend a year sampling opinion on the idea of a battery-powered Phantom. It needs to start work as soon as possible on a practical solution that sees the wheels of the next-generation Phantom driven by electric motors.

In reality that probably means building a range-extender drivetrain, using an on-board combustion engine (a gas-turbine generator?) to generate electricity.

Rolls Royce 102EX - Phantom Experimental Electric

Top speed: 99.8mph (limited); 0-62mph: 7.8sec; Economy: 120 miles per 20-hour single-phase charge; Co2: zero locally; Kerbweight: 2720kg; Engine: Twin electric motors; Installation: Rear-mounted, RWD; Power: 390bhp combined; Torque: 590lb ft from start; Gearbox: single speed transmission; Battery pack: 71kWh, Lithium-Nickel-Cobalt-Manganese Oxide

Join the debate

Comments
32

28 March 2011

Is an HGV licence required to drive this car at the best part of 3 tonnes?

28 March 2011

Our planet is plundered for 3 tons of materials to create this 'green machine'? A staggering 640kgs of lithium batteries, as Clarkson points out, mined in Canada, shipped to Asia for manufacture, back to Europe to be charged from our grid which in turn burns fossil fuels. Doh!

28 March 2011

I like the idea of the turbine electric - that would really give Rolls Royce a unique selling point.

28 March 2011

Slightly surprised and disappointed by the re-charge time which makes this model a little pointless but as a concept still think it has potential.

[quote streaky]

I like the idea of the turbine electric - that would really give Rolls Royce a unique selling point.[/quote]

You make a very good point. Would it not be better to produce a turbine powered hybrid version of the car, in the same way Jaguar have. Would give the smooth power with minimal sound. Indeed, if you got a pink one you could pretend to be Parker (or Lady Penelope if you are that way inclined!).

 

 

It's all about the twisties........

28 March 2011

[quote captainrick]A staggering 640kgs of lithium batteries, as Clarkson points out, mined in Canada, shipped to Asia for manufacture, back to Europe to be charged from our grid which in turn burns fossil fuels[/quote]And that compares badly how, exactly, with taking oil out the ground, processing it to make petroleum, transporting it across oceans, (now and then spilling it in vast quantities across coastlines) and storing it, before tanking it to gas stations throughout the country?

28 March 2011

Is the lengthy recharge time due purely to the size of the batteries or due to the contactless charging method?

If the car weighs 2.7 tonnes then surely a small motor that moves the induction plate on the underside of the car closer to the ground mounted plate during charging then away agian once the car is started would add little to the weight / price and reduce charging times significantly?

28 March 2011

I think they may have [silver] "mist" a trick calling it the "pee", being German and all....

28 March 2011

Hi LA, I'm not arguing about the merits of hybrids of sensible size and weight, but the Co2 alone generated in the manufacture of this monster vehicle is surely self -defeating. Air freight in a 747 for example, uses about 3.5% of it's weight in fuel per hour. I am fortunate to be a frequent visitor to LA since the 70's and note the proliferation of V8 trucks, Utes and SUVs on my travels down the I 5, 405 etc - even more so on the 101 in Phoenix. The USA uses @25% of the worlds oil with @ 5% of the world's population and now has the master plan of burning FOOD (ethanol from corn) to feed their avaricious V8s. A great country which I love, but dominated politically by the motor/oil cartels for far too long. The planet has payed a heavy price - no worries, blame Brutish Petroleum. Meanwhile, our EU masters are myopic in their CO2 fixation at the expense of other noxious gases.

28 March 2011

[quote Orangewheels]

..If the car weighs 2.7 tonnes then surely a small motor that moves the induction plate on the underside of the car closer to the ground mounted plate during charging then away agian once the car is started would add little to the weight / price and reduce charging times significantly?

[/quote]

You're probably correct, but I'm damned to know what you just said there!

28 March 2011

You mention the hotels and I agree this is probably where the big market is. I know several hotels here in Switzerland with Phantoms for ferrying guests a few km to the airport. The rest of the time the cars sit at the front door. Presumably they could sit above the charging point very easily. Short journeys, easy charging. Seems to be a good fit. I have no idea what percentage hotel sales are of the total build but I'm guessing high single digits. If Lotus Engineering can deliver them a drivetrain that delivers to this market better than the alternatives, given the existing high level of customization in a RR then they should be able to make a niche, profitable option.

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