Electric Rolls-Royce Spectre: winter testing complete

Published: 30 March 2022

► New electric Rolls-Royce Spectre
► £300k EV, with huge range and grunt
► Will be unveiled by the end of 2023

It’s real. The plan to put an all-electric Rolls-Royce on sale before the end of 2023 is on track, with one-quarter of the Spectre’s pre-production testing mileage now complete.

Rolls-Royce has shared images of the Spectre on the road in Sweden, where it has now finished its winter testing programme. That’s a total of around 390,000 testing miles done, with more than a million still to go, as work continues apace ahead of the first customers getting their Rolls electric coupes in the fourth quarter of next year.

Why Sweden?

Like many other car makers, Rolls-Royce makes extensive use of the area around Arjeplog. There’s very little traffic, but plenty of opportunities for seeing how your car will behave on ice and snow. And – particularly crucial for a battery-electric vehicle – how the electronics stand up to day after day of temperatures that never rise above zero. 

Rolls-Royce’s four-seasons on-road testing will, when complete, add up to a mileage equivalent to 400 years of typical use.

What other work is going on?

It’s not just real-world testing that’s keeping the Rolls team busy. The Spectre will be the most digital Rolls to date, by some margin, so there’s a lot of boffins crouched over laptops.

The Spectre’s electronics involve 141,200 sender-receiver relations, according to Rolls-Royce. It has more than 1000 functions with more than 25,000 sub-functions. To put that in context, the current Phantom has 51,000 sender-receiver relations, 456 functions and 647 sub-functions. And the amount of in-car cabling has gone up from 1.25 miles to more than four miles. 

Although there is doubtless some pooling of resources with other parts of the BMW group, Rolls-Royce is keen to stress that the Spectre is pure Rolls, with an aluminium spaceframe not shared with (for instance) the next 7-series.

And of course they’re not just trying to make the thing work: it needs to be incredibly refined and luxurious. The positioning of the batteries is helping to reduce the amount of road noise making it into the car, for instance.

‘Our task is to teach each component and system how to think, behave and communicate like a Rolls-Royce, which sees much of the engineering pivot from workshops into the digital space,’ says engineering director Mihiar Ayoubi. ‘Here in Arjeplog we have built a significant foundation on which we will create a true Rolls-Royce. This is a big step forward for our brand, but also for electrification – even though Spectre is in its infancy, I can confirm that the technology is able to contain the Rolls-Royce experience.

What else have we learnt about the Spectre?

Rolls says the car the Spectre most closely resembles in terms of dimensions and proportions is the 2008-2016 Phantom Coupe, which in turn took its styling lead from the 100 EX concept.

It’s highly aerodynamic, with the prototypes achieving an impressive drag factor of 2.6. 

The Spectre: everything you need to know

Torsten Müller-Ötvös owns the electric transition. Look the Rolls-Royce chief executive in the eye to catch even a hint of doubt and you’ll fail. He means it. He wants it. Rolls-Royce is going electric by the end of the decade not because there’s a BMW group directive or because Boris Johnson has set a timetable, but because it’s the right thing to do. And because he thinks founders Henry Royce and Charles Rolls would have wanted it. Now, 120 years on, he can make it happen.

By 2030, Goodwood will no longer be making combustion-engined cars. The first of the new all-electric breed will be the Rolls-Royce Spectre, a two-door fastback previewed by our artist’s impressions inspired by the camouflaged car revealed in September 2021. A small fleet of these development prototypes will clock up 1.5 million miles on public roads around the world in the run-up to the late-2023 arrival of the production Spectre.

At this stage Rolls-Royce is saying nothing about the power output, tech spec or performance. It’s also not talking about what will be shared with the rest of the BMW Group, beyond stressing that it uses a version of the Rolls-exclusive aluminium spaceframe architecture that debuted with the Phantom in 2017 and has subsequently been used on the Cullinan and Ghost.

The best electric cars: our EV guide

Smooth electric powertrains: perfect for stately Rollers?

Müller-Ötvös says Rolls-Royces are already smooth, quiet and torquey, characteristics in line with electric power, so the transition will be far less jarring than it will be for makers who rely on the sound, vibration and visceral excitement of a combustion engine for their appeal. ‘Electric is the future. It will happen. I also think it fits perfectly with the brand. We don’t have any problems with [the end of] roaring engines,’ he tells CAR.

Our CGI depicts the new all-electric Rolls Spectre coming in 2023

Isn’t range a worry? No. Müller-Ötvös reckons Rolls owners typically live in city centres and use their Rollers for short journeys. ‘If you’re not allowed to enter city centres in a Rolls-Royce, game over. Look around London: those Rolls-Royces are all privately owned. We need to keep building the cars these clients want.’

These individuals have charging facilities at home and at their business, and if they do need to travel long distances, well, they have private jets. They’ve been asking him for an electric Rolls for years, it turns out. ‘The changes in technology have brought about the Spectre, but also a change in our customers,’ says Müller-Ötvös.

He praises Tesla for both its products and its foresight in setting up its own Supercharger network. ‘Infrastructure is not a problem for us,’ said Müller-Ötvös, ‘but the infrastructure for public charging needs to grow massively.’

Although current Rolls-Royces have low mpg and high CO2 figures, Müller-Ötvös points out that 80 per cent of all the Rolls-Royces ever built are still on the road. He also hails the Goodwood factory as a model of sustainability that has cut its energy footprint per car by 29 per cent.

The new 2023 Rolls-Royce Spectre EV

Founders Rolls and Royce were both engineers with an interest in new applications of electricity. While a student at Cambridge, Rolls owned an electric car, a US-built Columbia Electric Carriage. In 1900 he said: ‘The electric car is perfectly noiseless and clean. There is no smell or vibration, and they should become very useful when fixed charging stations can be arranged. But for now I do not anticipate that they will be very serviceable – at least for many years to come.’ 

Goodwood-era Rolls-Royce has been working on EVs for more than a decade. The 2011 102EX was a one-off electric Phantom, with a lithium-ion battery and twin electric motors driving the rear wheels. It was used as a rolling test bed and to gauge reaction. And that reaction was unequivocal: the range was too short, charging too slow and the three-year battery life a nuisance.

2016’s 103EX, with its aerodynamically adventurous retro-futurist design, was also electric, but the focus was more on its autonomous driving capability and the scope for personalisation than powertrains. 

Next to those cars the Spectre is altogether more convincing as a production car. And if you don’t like it, you know who to complain to.

Rolls-Royce Spectre: prototype EVs on test

We’ve previously published photos of the Spectre EV out in the wild. Covered in camouflage, it’s still possible to make out the brand’s coach (aka suicide) rear doors, as well as an oversized, imposing grille on the nose of the car. The front of the new EV is largely undisguised, and looks to follow the design language of contemporary Rolls-Royce cars. Rolls-Royce customers may want to go electric, but they still want to make a stately impression as they creep silently around Knightsbridge. 

We’re expecting power to be around the 600bhp with the equivalent of some 800lb ft from multiple electric motors providing all-wheel drive. Rolls-Royce engineers are excited by the silky smooth delivery that an electric powertrain brings. 

Sounds good… when can I buy a Rolls-Royce Spectre?

Expect the Spectre to arrive on the market at the end of 2023. Our sources point to a price around £300,000, inflated by the sheer cost of the battery pack required to achieve a comfortable range.

Actual details about the new EV are scarce, but Rolls-Royce says it will run on the same architecture it’s developed for its latest generation of cars: the Phantom, Ghost and Cullinan SUV. To make sure the switch to electric works seamlessly, it is compressing the equivalent of 400 years of use into its development cycle, as engineers test the new EV systems to destruction.

Earlier camouflaged images of the Spectre show a similar silhouette to the Ghost but with two rear-opening doors, with a tapered rear glasshouse like the Sweptail project.

Rolls-Royce’s electric plans explained

spectre camo side

The brand has been experimenting with electrification for a decade; the 102EX concept, for example, was a pure-electric Phantom, while the 103EX was a wild, futuristic look at what a Roller of the 2030s could look like.

Müller-Ötvös says Rolls-Royce is aiming to ‘create the first, and finest, super-luxury product of its type. This is not a prototype. It’s the real thing, and it will be tested in plain sight. Our clients will take first deliveries of the car in the fourth quarter of 2023.’

Read our Rolls-Royce reviews

By Colin Overland

CAR's managing editor: wordsmith, critic, purveyor of fine captions