The 102EX is a one-off prototype to test the waters, a $3 million bet on the future. And it is bloody brilliant. Combining the peerless chassis engineering of a Rolls-Royce with a pair of silent electric motors in a vehicle that defines opulence yields what is arguably the most refined automobile, electric or otherwise, ever built. It has the largest battery ever installed in a passenger car, a 71-kilowatt-hour monster that would power your iPhone until Armageddon.
And Rolls-Royce built it because its customers haven’t asked for it.
High-torque electric motors offer seamless, refined power delivery, which fits perfectly with the brand’s values. The 102EX, unveiled last month at the Geneva Motor Show, will spend the next year touring the world, being tested like any other prototype but also being driven by the well-heeled folks who already own a Rolls.
Range (the Achilles’ heel of EVs) is less of an issue for a Rolls. The company claims the mammoth pack in the 102EX is good for 125 miles. That’s not much more than a Nissan Leaf but plenty for the city-center chauffeuring and airport runs most of these luxo-liners are used for.
The typical Rolls-Royce owner has a great many other autos available for long trips — and most likely a helicopter or a Gulfstream, too.
The car’s massive battery weighs 1,410 pounds. It is comprised of 96 lithium nickel cobalt manganese oxide pouch cells, arranged in five packs and laid out to mimic the V-12 and gearbox that were cast aside.
A trio if 3-kilowatt chargers are mounted up top. The car can recharge in eight to 20 hours, depending upon what you’ve plugged into.
Recharging is a simple plug-and-play operation. The socket, which casts a soothing blue glow, sits where you’ll find the fuel filler on a conventional Phantom. Rolls-Royce also fitted the car with an induction charger for wireless charging.
Insert plug here. Wait eight hours. Drive.
Bright orange high-voltage cables snake through the space vacated by the propshaft to a pair of 145-kilowatt motors mounted above the rear axle. Combined output is 388 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque.
The speedo says 160 mph, but the 102EX does a little more than half that.
So what’s it like to drive?
The Phantom Experimental Electric has a bit less power than the gas-burning Phantom but about 10 percent more torque so it pulls like mad. All that grunt is available the moment you hit the go pedal, and it just keeps coming, smoothly and without interruption because there are no gear changes.
The car is sedate off the line, but hold on once you hit 20 mph because the torque of the motors finally overcomes the mass of the car. You’ll see 60 mph in eight seconds, impressive for a car that weighs three tons. Top speed is capped at 100 mph.
Even the Spirit of Ecstacy has gone high-tech.
Rolls-Royce calls the leather “corinova.” It uses vegetable tanning, a process Rolls claims is eco-friendlier than conventional methods. The leather is colored with chestnut extract and tara powder.
The Phantom has what is arguably the most refined chassis of any car on the road, so the absence of engine noise means there’s almost nothing to hear.
Rolls-Royce has built something truly special. Yes, the 102EX is furiously expensive, has limited range and takes eons to charge. But it is a glimpse of the future, the first serious exploration of how the super-luxe cars of tomorrow might be propelled.
The 102EX will never be anything more than a niche vehicle, but that doesn’t make it any less significant. Or spectacular.