Rolls-Royce is preparing a high-profile entry into the electric vehicle ranks with a new luxury car that Autocar understands could form an entirely new model line.
Set to be detailed in official plans before the end of this year, although not expected to be unveiled fully at that point, the bespoke EV could adopt styling inspiration from the future-previewing 103EX concept of 2016.
Autocar has learned of the existence of a battery-powered Phantom prototype at the Munich research-and-development hub of Rolls-Royce’s parent firm, BMW. While the British brand has considered putting an electric version of an existing model into production as its first EV, it is now understood to favour an entirely new car, with the prototype being used as a powertrain test bed.
While it is not yet fully clear what form the Silent Shadow will take, the EV is set to draw heavily on the driveline and battery technology from BMW’s recently unveiled iX – an advanced electric large SUV that is set to go on sale in the UK in the latter half of this year.
The decision to push ahead with an EV was made after Rolls-Royce CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös confirmed the company would skip over petrol-electric plug-in hybrid powertrains and concentrate its development budget on fully electric models.
It also comes nearly a decade after the unveiling of the rear-wheel-drive 102EX, a one-off electric version of the previous, seventh-generation Phantom that was constructed to gauge customer reaction to an electric Rolls-Royce at the 2011 Geneva motor show.
“We need to make smart decisions on where we invest our money. It may be okay for bigger companies to go into hybrids and all sorts of different technologies. We needed to make a certain decision,” said Müller-Ötvös of the move that will result in Rolls-Royce offering an alternative to its traditional V12 petrol engine for the first time since 2003.
The Silent Shadow will spearhead renewed efforts to expose the Rolls-Royce brand to tech-savvy, high-income customers in key markets such as China and the US.