We recently had the opportunity to test drive the Rolls-Royce 102EX, also known as the Phantom Experimental Electric (EE). It’s the world’s first battery electric vehicle for the ultra-luxury segment and one we see being showcased as a benchmark for other brands in the industry. There’s a growing demand for alternative drive-train options and that’s something the British coachmaker noticed before deciding to build the Phantom EE. Rolls-Royce is known for blending luxury with timeless design and the Phantom has been looked at as one of the most elegant designs in recent years and one that’s seen by many as a modern-day classic. The Phantom EE began here, as the original Phantom’s aluminum shell serves as the design base and though this is strictly an experimental model for the time being, no detail was spared. The hand craftsmanship, fine detailing and iconic design cues like the pantheon grille and the Spirit of Ecstasy are all showcased here, as the only thing removed from the original Phantom were the naturally aspirated 6.75-litre V12 petrol engine and 6-speed gearbox.
These powerful components were replaced with a lithium ion battery pack and two electric motors mounted on the rear sub-frame. These motors are connected to a single speed transmission with integrated differential. We get a maximum power output of 290kW and torque of 800Nm available over a wide band compared with 338kW for standard Phantom with maximum torque of 720Nm, delivered at 3,500rpm. Here’s the end result – a 0-60mph time of about eight seconds (5.7 seconds in standard Phantom) with speed limited to 160kph and a range of 200kph on a single charge. It takes about eight hours to charge via a three-phase charge but this being a one-off and with knowledge and feedback still being gathered, we’re hoping this aspect of the technology is fine-tuned in the years to come so that maybe we are fortunate enough to see a production model with a matured version of this battery electric technology.
We took the 102EX on New York City’s West Side Highway and through a brisk stroll through the Upper West Side. We had a few opportunities to really push the pedal and witness the vehicle’s power and agility. Since we had the opportunity to check out the standard Phantom as well — yes, they tossed us the keys to this, too — we were able to really see how different both cars were from each other from a performance standpoint. Though the standard Phantom clearly has more power, we can’t say the 102EX is weak. It’s actually not by any means or at least it didn’t seem like it. Think about it — they took out a V12 engine and the robust transmission that goes with it. With all that weight gone and two nimble, electric motors brought in to replace the original, a lot of fat was shed. Throughout the drive, it seemed very light on its feet and we never felt like it needed more than what was given to us. For city driving, the 102EX has the best unavailable battery electric technology ever created. Though the standard Phantom is pretty quiet, the 102EX is darn-near silent and still manages to pick up some speed when duty calls.
Rolls-Royce makes cars many potential customers prefer not to drive but rather be driven in and the Phantom EE is exceptional throughout though we’d say the back is where we’d prefer to be seated at all times. The 102EX has taken full advantage of the displacement of the standard Phantom’s gasoline components by inserting leather flooring in the back and giving the vehicle an amazingly luxurious feel. Beyond this, the Atlantic chrome-finished dashboard echoes the exterior colour and provides a sense of interior-exterior balance. The interior of the Phantom EE represents a departure from the traditional wood sets that define the majority of cars delivered to customers, providing a unique finish to the car. The distinctive aluminized foil weave lifts the environment of the interior and contrasts sharply with the dark natural leather within. The Corinova leather is impeccably crafted and finished to perfection. The interior features mainly earthy colors — chestnut colour for seat covers and Quebracho Brown for other areas such as the floor and trunk lining, both of which are made of durable saddle leather.
There’s still much to learn about the future of battery electric technology and if it has a place in the future of alternative drive train options for the ultra-luxury car segment. What we do know is this — the Rolls-Royce 102EX is a great starting point. Yes, the technology needs to advance a bit before it is ready for primetime but with a longer charge time and lower range at the present moment, this could be a feasible option for occasional city driving. However, we’d rather see the technology progress and evolve to a point where it may take half the time to charge and the range doubles. This way, concerns for re-charging during a slightly extended trip can be thrown out the window. We’re glad to see though that there wasn’t much lost in translation from a low-speed performance standpoint. If you need to accelerate past a slow driver with a swarm of yellow taxis coming behind you, we’re confident the Phantom EE has enough power to go next level and in an extremely comfortable manner at that.
We’re sure Rolls-Royce’s team of gifted engineers and designers will continue to push the envelope and we can not wait to read more of the feedback from current Rolls-Royce car owners and enthusiasts. To follow the 102EX’s progress, be sure to visit Electric Luxury.