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Here's Why Rolls-Royce Has To Develop An Electric Car Now Even When There's No Demand

Illustration for article titled Heres Why Rolls-Royce Has To Develop An Electric Car Now Even When Theres No Demand
Photo: Rolls-Royce

It’s pretty weird that Rolls-Royce hasn’t really taken a serious approach to electric cars yet, and only just announced it’ll have a car by the end of the decade. Apparently Rolls customers just haven’t demanded the change, and it’s only happening now because some cities may soon ban combustion cars.

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From Automotive News Europe:

Rolls-Royce is developing a standalone electric car to prepare for the closing of some city centers to combustion engine cars.

At least 20 major cities globally have said they plan to ban diesel or gasoline powered vehicles from their centers by 2030.

Rolls-Royce will offer the first full electric Rolls-Royce “within this decade,” CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös told Automotive News Europe in a phone interview.

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Rolls-Royce clarified, according to Auto News sources, that there’s allegedly no real demand for the switch from combustion to electric power from traditional customers, at least so far:

While customers are not asking for an ultraluxury battery-powered car, they could be forced to switch due to legislation, a Rolls-Royce spokesman said.

“There is no demand from customers but we need to be in a position to sell them a car if legislation forbids them from driving a combustion engine car into the center of a city,” the spokesman said.

You would think the somewhat inherent benefits of switching from a combustion-powered to an all-electric drivetrain would be the next logical jump in noise and vibration mitigation and quality control. The smooth and direct power delivery of a battery-powered electric motor also often requires less maintenance and has fewer wearable parts versus traditional alternatives, not to mention its highly variable and efficient packaging opportunities.

But maybe at the Rolls-Royce price point, and among its targeted demographic’s lifestyle, there’s still a certain romantic appeal and perhaps some perceived performance benefit to keeping the gas burning. At least until combustion cars are no longer for sale.

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But that’d have to come from legislation if it isn’t going to be driven by demand. So regardless of what its customers actually will spend their money on, the company has to position itself to still be able to sell any cars at all that its customers can drive where they need to drive. That’s likely in big cities, and it’s those cities that are the most likely to ban the big, splurging gas-chugging statue-mobiles, unless they can become a progressive, fume-less rolling icon of the future.

This isn’t to suggest that these big-money customers will refuse an electric alternative. The “demand” for the current gas-cars is still strong though, which suggests customers just haven’t really thought about, or haven’t developed a strong desire for change. If whatever shows up in the showroom with a big price tag and LED glitter in the headliner and still looks dishonestly handsome, then Rolls will probably have no issue selling cars powered by anything.

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Rolls-Royce’s unwillingness to develop an electric car so far has a pretty fucking ridiculous rationale, as reported by Auto News (emphasis added):

Another reason is that Rolls-Royce does not believe that asking customers to lift charging cables out of the trunk and plug the car in fits with the brand’s ultraluxury image.

The 102EX was one of the first electric concepts to feature wireless inductive charging but Rolls-Royce has since become less committed to the idea, citing its inefficiency and potential danger.

Instead, the brand is working with a company to supply a robotic arm that can charge the vehicle automatically.

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You’re too rich to plug in your car? Or have a butler do it for you? We’re really just going to pout until inductive charging shows up, or some paint job-terrorizing robot arm?? Grow up!

If they do it right, it’ll be like this retro-restoration conversion of the classic Rolls from Lunaz. Just give me that, but new and safe.

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Reviews Editor, Jalopnik

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DISCUSSION

ahildy9815
Ahildy9815

Like I said on the last article about an Electric Rolls Royce, they haven’t done it because they will get fucking awful range.

A Phantom already weighs 5,700lbs. Remove 1,000 lbs for the ICE drivetrain (which is generous, since I’m getting around 600lbs for the N74), and we have a 4,700lb un-powered chassis.

The battery in a Model S (85kw) weighs 1,200 lbs on it’s own, add another hundred pounds in motors and wiring, again I’m being generous.

You now have a 5,900lb EV with the same drivetrain as a Model S.

The Model S weighs 4,950lbs, and gets 265 miles out of that pack.

The Phantom is 20% heavier, so at a minimum every aspect of the EV drivetrain will be 20% worse than the Model S. RR customers won’t be pleased with that.

If they actually make this thing, they will be going for broke, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it came in at 8,000lbs+