Electric Power plus Phantom – an otherworldly experience

Posted: May 13, 2011 by The Car Spy in Rolls Royce
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Picture the scene. Berkeley Square at midday in balmy London heaving with traffic. You want to disappear into a vacuum of silence to escape the onslaught of noise from black cab diesel engines, builder’s vans and loud, shouty people with mobile phones. Suddenly your eyes focus on the shimmering pale blue mirage of what appears to be a Rolls Royce Phantom which apart from the rather fetching paint finish looks like any other Phantom. As the car draws closer you can’t help noticing that the Spirit of Ecstacy adorning the grille looks like a Lalique figurine which is glowing an incadescent blue. Well if you’ve got it then flaunt it you might think but then there is a good reason behind this bit of mascot tinkering. This RR is their road-going experimental electric carriage otherwise referred to as 102EX so they’ve done something a little different with the traditional S of E. It’s a bit ‘Las Vegas’ but it is a prototype after all.

As the car draws near it is quiet, very quiet. “Just as a Roller should be!”, you might say but this one is very, very, very quiet. These are not small cars and the leviathon of the road takes on an almost spritual presence while it silently looms large in front of you.

Although Rolls calls this car ‘experimental’ it looks as real as any other Phantom and the build-quality is exemplary to say the least. The ‘Atlantic Chrome’ paintwork also features a new type of finish that emphasises the car’s lines – it certainly seemed to impress the people of Berkely Square that sunny afternoon.

What else is different? Well, there is a charging socket on the offside C-pillar which is hidden under a nicely executed hatch with 102EX inscribed in the chrome embellishment. The interior features a new type of leather finished in a sort of cholocatey-brown which looks much nicer than it sounds together with a new aluminium-weave for the dash and door panels. Nothing conservative about this Phantom then and it looks good in the London sun.

So now it it is time to pilot the car through the streets of West London which is no mean feat in any car the size of a Phantom but worry not, because driving a Roller through London is like watching Moses parting the Red Sea. Traffic doesn’t exactly evaporate but it just seems to get out of the way.

Besides, any concerns over traffic quickly disappear whilst becoming familiar with the driving controls which are, er, the same as a ‘normal’ Phantom. Now yours truly is not exactly electric car-friendly and to be fair a certain amount of scepticism was present before being offered the chance to drive this Phantom without a hulking great V12 to move it around.

Within a few yards, however, it all seems to make perfect sense. There is no ‘starter’ you just turn it on – a bit like switching on your TV. No noise of course is present even as you move off. Build up a bit of speed and there is still no noise. The silence is funereal. It is surreal. The world inside 102EX is completely detached from the streets outside. It is almost as though you are watching a video with the sound removed. This is no milk-float either. Press a lot harder on the ‘gas’ pedal (or should that be ‘dimmer switch’?) and you get a big dollop of torque. We were told by one of the clever engineers at Rolls that the motors had been de-tuned to stop it shredding tyres – yikes! 

Sadly, there was no chance to try the car on a clear open road but do you know what? London was probably the best place to test this ghostly Roller. It made complete and utter sense. Even the 200 mile range (thereabouts) made sense. After all how many miles would you drive in and around London in a day – in a Rolls Royce too?

102EX is going on a world tour so that Rolls Royce can canvass opinion from new and old customers alike. Depending on its findings in a year’s time it will make a decision whether to build electric cars or not. Do it Rolls, do it. There is no other car on the road that is so suited to the technology.

Apparently Rolls and Royce believed in electric cars way back when they first met and tinkered with a few experimental models themselves. However, they thought that it would be a hundred years before the world would be ready for the technology. They were right on the button it seems!

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