2012 Rolls-Royce 102EX Phantom Experimental Electric Road Test Review

Brian Armstead - CAP staff
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Take a $500,000-plus handcrafted automobile, strip out the 12-cylinder engine, seven-speed transmission and fuel tank, and then add an electric motor, single speed tranny and batteries. Huh?

Surely Brian your price point is off, as the Tesla and Fisker electrics aren't nearly this expensive.

No, I'm not off on price, as the Phantom this car is based on costs a pretty penny. In a bold move in the ultra luxury segment, Rolls-Royce recently gave us the opportunity to drive the 102EX Phantom Experimental Electric (Phantom EE) full electric sedan.

According to Roll-Royce, the Phantom EE may never make it into production. Instead, the Phantom EE will serve as a working test bed, offering the wealthy the opportunity to experience an established alternative drivetrain technology and to provide feedback on their experiences, thoughts and concerns directly to Rolls-Royce. But when you think about the future of this storied brand, this is the right move. Why?

Because the wealth of information on electric technology that this concept will bring forth will surely pay dividends in the future, as the world's fossil fuel resources are finite.

Having driven Fisker, Tesla and Nissan full electrics, and of course Japanese and American automaker hybrids, I was a bit unsure if the Phantom EE would drive like the gasoline powered Phantom on which it's based, as the driving dynamics certainly change when you switch from gas to electric power. My experience with the "EE," however, was pure Rolls-Royce.

As one would expect, the Phantom EE is chocked with technology. An advanced aluminum space-frame offsets the additional weight of the battery packs. The packs are comprised of large-format "NCM" Lithium-Nickel-Cobalt-Manganese-Oxide cells. NCM is a variant of industry favoured lithium-ion chemistry that has high energy and power densities.

The Phantom EE battery pack houses five modules of cells arranged in various orientations within an irregular shaped unit that resembles the overall shape of the original engine and transmission. There are a total of 96 cells, and it's the largest battery pack ever fitted to a passenger car.

One of the obstacles slowing sales of full electric vehicles is the concern about the lack of available recharging infrastructure, and the added step of having to physically plug the vehicle in to recharge.

To present Rolls-Royce owners with a vision of a potential solution to these problems, the Phantom EE features induction charging (corded charging is also part of the recharging package). This is not new technology, as I charge my iPhone on an inductive mat every day. The huge advantage with cars is that it delivers greater convenience for owners and hints at the potential for a network of remote charging facilities.

There are two main elements to induction charging: a transfer pad on the ground that delivers power from a main source, and an induction pad mounted under the car, beneath the Phantom EE's battery pack.

Two rear-wheel mounted electric motors, channeled through a single speed transmission, power the Phantom EE. Output is 388 horsepower (290 kW) and 590 pound-feet of torque (800 Nm). Zero to 100 km/h comes up in about eight seconds (versus 6.9 seconds for the gasoline powered Phantom), and the top-speed is electronically limited to 159 km/h (99 mph). The Phantom EE has a range of 200 kilometers (124 miles) after a full eight-hour charge.

Inside, Rolls' typical attention to detail is evident. Its "Corinova" leather, and there's plenty of it, is tanned using a vegetable-based tanning process, eliminating the harmful chemical byproducts of traditional tanning methods. And there are no wool carpets in the Phantom EE, but instead it uses leather across the floorboards front to rear. Since there is no driveshaft, the rear floor is totally flat, adding to interior legroom for middle rear passengers.

The dash and door panels are leather and glass fibre weave, which looks like a carbon-fibre treatment. There is no wood in the Phantom EE, another step in the "green" direction. As expected, all the usual Rolls-Royce comfort and convenience accouterments are included too.

Recharging is undertaken with a plug and five-pin socket, which takes the place of the normal fuel-filling mechanism. The standard fuel-filler cap has been replaced by a design featuring a clear window, displaying the "RR" logo and "102EX" motif. The window frames tricolour LEDs, which present the car's charging status. Blue indicates the vehicle is on standard charge, while pulsating blue indicates that inductive charging is taking place. Green indicates a fully charged battery while red notifies you of a potential fault in the system.

Charging can be halted via a switch located adjacent to the plug. The process can also be operated inside the vehicle using controls accessed beneath the centre console.
The Phantom EE exterior is stunning, finished in "Atlantic Chrome," which imparts Nano-sized chrome particles into 18 separate layers of paint. The legendary "Spirit of Ecstasy" hood ornament is made of translucent Makrolon (an advanced acrylic), rather than traditional stainless steel, and houses a blue LED light, hinting at the electric technology beneath the hood.

During a brief test drive of the Phantom EE, the question posed by the Rolls PR team was answered, as several on the team asked me if the EE "drove like a Rolls-Royce." The answer is an unequivocal "yes," as the Phantom EE drives and rides with all of the premium luxury attributes that make the marque famous. The electric motors power this heavy car with authority, and the typically ultra-quiet Rolls interior is even quieter thanks to the elimination of the gasoline engine and attendant exhaust cacophony. I did detect a slightly harsher ride, but again it's impossible for ride dynamics between gas and electric power to be identical.

Hats off to Rolls-Royce for this "Crowning" achievement. This small automaker (2,700 units sold worldwide last year) is reaching for new heights, and the Phantom EE shows the brand is "charged" to move towards the future.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Luxury Sedan, Rolls-Royce, 2012, 102EX Phantom Experimental Electric, $99,999+, Electric,

Organizations: Rolls-Royce

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