Electric Rolls-Royce Phantom 102EX: Quick Drive Page 2

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Rolls-Royce Phantom 102EX, experimental electric prototype, New York City, November 2011

Rolls-Royce Phantom 102EX, experimental electric prototype, New York City, November 2011

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The general level of fit and finish in 102EX was (of course) superb, but everyone from Rolls-Royce stressed that it's an "experimental" prototype.

It had to be developed enough so that customers didn't feel like they were driving an engineering mule, but its creators didn't have time to resolve a few of the finer points.

Customers understood that, they said, and we're certainly inclined to forgive them for it.

Reactions from Rolls-Royce owners, said Oleg Satanovsky of the company's product communications group, have been largely positive.

135 miles of range

Many originally thought the entire concept was a joke, not imagining that an electric vehicle could provide anything remotely near Rolls-Royce levels of quality and refinement, let alone acceleration and performance.

Once they rode in the car, he said, they were largely convinced--and a number professed to be awed that such a thing was possible at all. A number were "stunned," Kirkham said, taking (quiet, discreet, appropriate) pride that "their preconceptions were impressively demolished."

Rolls Royce Phantom Experimental Electric 102EX

Rolls Royce Phantom Experimental Electric 102EX

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The biggest drawback owners saw, not surprisingly, was range. Rolls-Royce quotes a range of up to 200 kilometers (135 miles), though Kirkham noted that the total range had fallen to a mere 88 miles after a cold soak in the brisk autumn nights of New York City suburbs.

Several didn't like the transparent charging-port door, Kirkham said, preferring a vehicle that would look more conventional on the outside.

Largest battery pack?

102EX has an air-cooled battery pack of 71 kilowatt-hours, which Rolls-Royce felt was the largest yet in any passenger car. (The 2012 Tesla Model S will actually have 85 kilowatt-hours, but we'll forgive the firm for that too.)

Rolls Royce Phantom Experimental Electric 102EX live photos

Rolls Royce Phantom Experimental Electric 102EX live photos

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The cells are from the Scottish firm Adreon, and the entire pack weighs more than 1,400 pounds. It's located in the engine compartment, with a pair of liquid-cooled electric motors that power the rear axle installed behind the rear compartment.

The entire car weighs about 200 kg (350 pounds) more than a standard Phantom--which itself tips the scales at a substantial 5,800 pounds--and the weight distribution is considerably altered by the new componentry.

One advantage to the new powertrain: With only cooling pipes to pass from one end of the car to the other, the driveshaft tunnel could be removed, giving the rear compartment a completely flat floor.

Rolls Royce Phantom Experimental Electric 102EX

Rolls Royce Phantom Experimental Electric 102EX

Enlarge Photo

Being a European-spec car--albeit with left-hand drive--the recharging port uses a Blue Mennekes connector. For U.S. recharging, the company has a J-1772 adaptor (stuck in a bag being held by U.S. Customs the day we drove the car).

Whirlwind world tour

Despite its low 4,000 miles or so, it's been on a whirlwind world tour. It debuted in March at the Geneva Motor Show, and visited Singapore and Beijing; did a European swing that included London, Paris, and Madrid; then Tokyo and Yokohama in Japan, followed by Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Its visit to New York this week will be followed by a stay in Los Angeles, and then it'll return home to England in early December.

There, it'll be torn down to inspect the condition of its unique electric parts, and then likely housed among the company's collection of rare and unusual Rolls-Royces.

Clean-sheet future

The overall goal of the project, said Satanovsky, was simply to think about what a future Rolls-Royce could be.

"We wanted to do something that was the opposite of a gasoline-powered Phantom," he said. A hybrid would have been a "compromise," and an electric car seemed within the realm of possibility a decade or more hence.

So now the company will finish gathering data from its owners, assess the performance of the car so far, and then sit down for a nice long think.

Stay tuned. This could be interesting.


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