Rolls-royce spectre

14 min read

Rolls-Royce fights the habit of 120 years and launches its first electric car

PHOTOGRAPHY MAX EDLESTON

MODEL TESTED

SPECTRE

Price £332,055 Power 577bhp Torque 660lb ft 0-60mph 4.1sec 30-70mph 3.1sec Economy 2.4mpkWh Max DC charging speed 194kW 70-0mph 44.7m

I t’s a widely held misconception that electric cars are a modern phenomenon. At the beginning of the 20th century, just as fate was preparing the meeting of well-to-do autophile and car dealer Charles Rolls and mercurial engineer Henry Royce, EVs were very much in vogue. In 1899, the fastest car in the world was electric, central London was abuzz with electric carriages and in 1900 one-third of all new cars registered in the US were electric.

One of Royce’s first briefs as car designer and co-proprietor of the newly formed Rolls-Royce Cars was to produce an urban combustion-engined vehicle that would be comparably as clean, quiet, smooth and easy to use as an electric one, without the charging and range problems that limited EVs to ‘town carriage’ use. The short-lived 1905 Rolls-Royce V8 Landaulet and ‘Legalimit’ (named for the length of its wheelbase) models resulted.

It was a grounding in electrical engineering that gave Royce the perspective he needed, over the following decades, to make Rolls-Royces smoother, more reliable and more pleasant to drive – superior as luxury cars, in short – than their rivals. (The legendary 40/50 Silver Ghost had the world’s first ‘perfect balance’ straight-six engine.)

Now, having perfected the alternative to EVs over more than a century – and with the world more ready for EVs than it was in 1904 – comes Rolls-Royce’s very first electric car. The industry’s most aristocratic electric car opponent has turned EV gamekeeper – and the oldest independent road test in existence is about to discover what kind of ultimate electric luxury car has been created.

DESIGN AND ENGINEERING

AAAAC

Rolls-Royce’s modern diversion into EVs dates back to the 2011 Geneva show, where the firm exhibited the 102 EX: a seventh-gen Phantom limo with battery power, created to gauge the reaction of its customer base to a zero-emission model.

Work began on the mechanical basis for its current range of models – the innovative aluminium spaceframe Architecture of Luxury – in 2014, and with electric power as well as combustion engines in mind. So for the Spectre, Rolls-Royce simply had to tap into – and develop – the potential that had been engineered in.

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