Rolls-Royce wants to make an electric Phantom

Published: 23 October 2008

Rolls-Royce CEO Tom Purves would like to make an electric-powered Phantom. ‘Many of our customers do small mileages exclusively in the city,’ says Purves, who took over the helm of BMW-owned Rolls-Royce in July 2008. ‘For these customers, an electric Rolls-Royce would be ideal.’

Purves has just driven the new electric Mini, which debuts at next month’s Los Angeles auto show, and was ‘bowled over by it. It is superb: quiet, fast and fantastic fun’.

An electric Rolls-Royce, says Purves, would be in keeping with the Rolls brand. ‘We stand for unmatched refinement and you can’t get a quieter and less intrusive engine than a well engineered electric motor. Truly, the loudest noise you would hear would be the tick of the clock,’ he says, referring to an old Rolls marketing message. ‘We also stand for strong and instant torque – and an electric motor delivers maximum torque instantly. The “waftability” would be fantastic.’

Electric Rolls-Royce: the legal argument

A battery-powered Rolls might also be essential to meet legislation in some cities. ‘I can imagine a time when city or state authorities may ban cars from towns that exceed a certain level of CO2,’ says Purves. ‘We may need an electric car merely to sell in certain parts of the world.’

Purves does not think an electric Rolls-Royce project would be difficult to engineer or take too many years to deliver – though he wouldn’t be drawn on exact timing. He believes it could be partly engineered and developed at Rolls’ headquarters in Goodwood, with back-up from BMW in Munich – using experience from the electric Mini project.

The Mini E uses lithium ion batteries and has a range of 150 miles – more than adequate for many Rolls customers, says Purves. The Mini E’s top speed is pegged to 95mph and 0-62mph takes 8.5 seconds. That would be sufficient for an electric urban version of the Phantom.

Naturally, the petrol V12 would still be offered. Purves reckons many Phantom customers would buy both – an electric Rolls for urban use and petrol Rolls for longer journeys.

By Gavin Green

Contributor-in-chief, former editor, anti-weight campaigner, voice of experience