The $3m RollsRoyce electricpowered 102EX

14 Июн 2014 | Author: | Комментарии к записи The $3m RollsRoyce electricpowered 102EX отключены
Rolls-Royce Electric Cars

Steve Colquhoun

Rolls-Royce 102EX Experimental Electric

2011 Rolls-Royce 102EX Experimental Electric

A marriage made in heaven, or an odd couple bound for divorce? Not even Rolls-Royce knows if the arranged nuptials of its ageless flagship, the Phantom, and the alternative fuel technology du jour, a plug-in electric drivetrain, will make it beyond the honeymoon phase.

Still, though, what a honeymoon it will be. The 102EX Experimental Electric — as the $3 million, emission-free, one-off concept is known — will spend the next year touring most of the company’s major markets (but not Australia) to gauge the reactions of customers, media and influential decision makers to the union of a couple of unlikely bedfellows.

Even though Rolls-Royce firmly vows we won’t when asked if it will put this model into production, it’s clear from the time, money and effort expended that it would dearly love to get some sort of commitment from its notoriously fickle clientele.

Or, at the very least, a mandate for another direction that will hedge the company and its thirsty V12 engines against the planet’s dwindling oil supplies.

The 102EX’s very first stop is Singapore, and it’s here that Drive is among the first in the world to get behind the wheel of the electric Roller. In total, only 500 people — mostly current customers — will be asked to drive the car during the year-long tour; only a select handful of media will be granted access to the Frankenstein-like creation.

On a grey, typically sticky day in the Asian hub city, our first glimpse of the 102EX comes outside a makeshift gallery that Rolls-Royce has set up directly adjacent to the city’s bustling seaport.

Piles of shipping containers and a noisy fleet of forklifts and cranes form a drab backdrop as the object of our curiosity hoves silently and elegantly into view, resplendent in a unique silver-green paintwork that took 18 coats to apply and whose ceramic nano particles that lend the car its metallic sheen are said to be 8000 times smaller than the thickness of a hair.

It’s our first lesson in the attention paid to detail by the UK-based super-luxury manufacturer, which set out to create a car that is more than simply a test bed for an experimental drivetrain.

There’s also some startlingly modern detail inside the cabin, with the traditional wooden panelling replaced by aluminised foil, while seats made of corinova leather intentionally show more character flaws than traditional models. The leather look extends to the floor with thick plates of the stuff replacing luxurious woollen carpets.

Outside, the famed Spirit of Ecstasy bonnet emblem is bathed in a funky blue glow, while a beautifully designed power plug replaces the fuel filler cap and can glow different colours to denote modes of recharging.

But that’s all a sideshow to the main act, which is the replacement of the Phantom’s stock 6.75-litre V12 engine with a bank of 96 batteries under the bonnet, while two electric motors inhabit the space where the petrol tank used to be.

The result is a combined 290kW of power and a handy 800Nm of torque, the latter all available from the moment you press firmly on the accelerator (one never mashes the pedal in a Roller).

The 2.7-tonne, 5.8-metre long behemoth surges forward with an even more ridiculous ease than its V12-motivated Phantom brother, surfing a fat wave of torque all the way up to the signposted 70km/h speed limit on one of Singapore’s industrial artery roads.

Sure, it’s not as quick on paper as the Phantom — 0 to 100km/h in 8.0 seconds versus 5.7 — but it does feel more responsive to both standing and rolling accelerative requests.

The unique Rolls-Royce power reserve meter shows that under brisk acceleration we’re not even tapping half the engine’s potential, and you fancy the electric car’s governed 160km/h limit is selling it a long way short of its true capability.

Absent from all of this is the expected snarl of a big-block engine, and the rhythmic rise and fall of a convential auto transmission. This is a Rolls-Royce, after all, but even for owners accustomed to the serenity of their own cars this almost-total aural deprivation will be something quite new.

The twin electric motors are silent save for a barely perceptible whine, and the single gear builds momentum in a satisfyingly — if slightly disconcerting — linear fashion.

The only real noise, then, comes from the tyres — not entirely unexpected given a 2.7-tonne car riding on massive 21-inch rims on coarse chip surfaces around the Singapore docks precinct.

It’s nigh on impossible to separate the Phantom — which we drove directly before the 102EX on the same roads — and the 102EX on ride quality, because the Rolls-Royce suspension system that uses airbags instead of springs is superbly calibrated to both cars to produce the trademark waftability that the marque’s owners demand.

The 102EX also maintains an extremely similar weight balance to the Phantom, with a 640kg battery pack replacing the engine block at the front of the car, and motors replacing the fuel tank at the rear.

Rolls-Royce Electric Cars

Set a fairly direct out-and-back course and with a lead car governing our pace — and a nervous team of engineers in the back seat — there was little opportunity to find out how the 102EX fares in corners. But given the air suspension and a tall, boxy body, it’s probably not going to cause Ferrari’s engineers any sleepless nights.

Range anxiety was not an issue during our short time with the car, although with others scheduled to drive the car later in the day we were politely requested not to run the airconditioner above its lowest setting — somewhat of a problem as the temperature outside hit 31.5 degrees and the humidity hovered around 80 per cent.

Notwithstanding that the maximum range of 200km will probably only be achievable by turning off some creature comforts that some owners won’t be happy to forgo, the 102EX is the most resolved electric car I have experienced, because it ticks almost every box its customers are likely to demand.

Rolls-Royce even has a dignified solution to recharging, eschewing unsightly cables in favour of an induction pad that sits under the car and received a wireless transfer of electricity from a loop embedded in the customer’s garage floor.

The marque already has a head-start on other electric vehicle suppliers who are hampered by the inflated costs of building the technology on a relatively small scale, forcing prices out of the reach of most ordinary customers.

Rolls-Royce customers care little of cost; if the car performs to their high standards, and has a a tinge of green credibility about it, it could well prompt enough of them to pledge I will for this marriage of convenience to finally be consumated.


Fast facts

Engine: Two electric motors mounted on the rear sub-frame

Power: 290kW (2x145kW)

Torque: 800Nm

Transmission: One-speed auto with integrated differential 0-100KM/h: 8.0 seconds approx

Rolls-Royce Electric Cars
Rolls-Royce Electric Cars
Rolls-Royce Electric Cars
Rolls-Royce Electric Cars
Rolls-Royce Electric Cars
Rolls-Royce Electric Cars

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