At last year’s Geneva Motor Show, Rolls-Royce bid a token nod to eco-consciousness by trotting out a provocatively-painted electric-motored concept of its übersledge, the Phantom. The Phantom Experimental Electric, or 102EX, had a 1,452-pound battery pack underneath its 8-foot hood instead of the usual 6.75-liter twin-turbo V-12 engine. Rolls-Royce entertained the idea of introducing it alongside its gasoline-powered sibling, because “our customers love the 12-cylinder and hate diesel,” said the company’s staffers. And as it turned out, the Phantom Electric turned out to be even quieter, reflecting Rolls-Royce’s brand values, with gobs more torque, even more interior room, and a stately elegance that somehow managed to surpass the gasoline-powered Phantom, according to Motor Trend, which in itself is a seemingly Herculean task.
Alas, Rolls-Royce killed any plans for mass production (“mass” being relative, of course) of the 102EX, for much the same reasons you would guess. Its customers cast doubt over its range, a problem more pressing here than in a Nissan Leaf: despite the aerodynamics of a Electro-Motive Diesel F40PH locomotive, Phantoms are made for cross-continental treks, and there’s not always Bollinger Vieille Vignes Françaises at every charging station.
And as such, the sort of well-heeled folk that would spring for a Phantom questioned the point of an electric one.
Because anything so showing of a concern for the environment—much less your fellow man—would simply be gauche. 500 Phantom owners were invited to try out the 102EX, across the world, for months at a time. And their results were ambivalent, to be kind: the 100-mile range was frivolous, rendering its Montauk-Hamptons commute impotent, and the mere notion of using electricity to propel humans was something best left for the teeming masses and their lip service to eco-friendliness.
“A car that goes less than 100 miles at a time is of no interest to them,” said an unnamed Rolls-Royce executive. “They think electric cars are nothing more than golf carts. And they own golf courses. There was simply no interest, none.”
Even for the Carls Jr. coupon crowd like yours truly, an electric Phantom does seem disingenuous. And while its practicalities within the Rolls-Royce luxury image are thoroughly valid—after all, the company positions itself as the best cars in the world, period, with no irony or hyperbole—whisking away on the same environmentally friendly promises as a tinny Mitsubishi i-MIEV seems almost as weirdly ironic and farcical as a Rolls-Royce hybrid—oh wait, that could actually happen.
Source: Motor Trend