► What comes after the Spectre?
► Why Rolls-Royce fits EVs perfectly
► Electric Cullinan already planned
When the Rolls-Royce Spectre finally hits our roads, it’ll usher in a new era of electric power for the Goodwood-based brand. Chief executive Torsten Müller-Ötvös said the Spectre EV was built in response to demand from customers, who in many cases already own an electric car from another manufacturer. He added all new Rolls-Royces would be electric by the end of 2030.
‘We lead because we listen. We listen to our clients, people with whom we have a very special relationship.’
The order book for the Spectre was already bulging, a year ahead of the first customers getting their cars – one reason why Rolls-Royce is seeking planning permission for a major expansion of its current campus-style factory on the Goodwood estate. That would make room for a new paintshop – needed in part because of the rise in demand for two-tone paint schemes – as well as the engineering and logistics operations.
Rolls-Royce goes electric
CEO Törsten Müller-Ötvos tells CAR: ‘The guiding light is Rolls-Royce first, electric second. That’s why we also decided to go with classical Rolls-Royce proportions. It needs to look like a Rolls-Royce: monolithic, great stature, it carries proudly the pantheon grille. It drives like a Rolls-Royce, it accelerates like a Rolls-Royce, it wafts like a Rolls-Royce, it carries lovely features like starlight headlining, it has all the same materials – while being electric.
‘We also made the decision that this car you could not get electric and combustion. The Spectre is only electric. All future Rolls-Royces, new ones, will be only electric, whilst maintaining what Rolls-Royce stands for. This should be the most dynamic RR ever in history. And it is.’
And what’s next?
‘This architecture is the architecture for all future Rolls-Royces. They might see very different technologies, they might see different shapes. That is the charm of spaceframe – it’s easier to build up different body types.’
Although every new Rolls-Royce will be electric, there will be several years of combustion-engined Rolls. ‘I still foresee a very good business for us in future for Cullinans, for Ghosts. They are the pillars of what Rolls-Royce stands for, crowned by Phantom, which is always around 500 units, very stable. Spectre will definitely be another important column in our product portfolio.
Smooth electric powertrains: perfect for stately Rollers?
Müller-Ötvös is quick to point out 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.
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.
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.