Rolls-Royce’s Electric Vehicle Goes On World Tour

Known for making some of the world’s most luxurious and expensive luxury sedans, Rolls-Royce has launched a world tour for its first ever electric vehicle, the 102EX. The 102EX is, for the most part, a Rolls-Royce Phantom sedan whose standard V12 gasoline engine and transmission were replaced with a battery electric drivetrain. Because of the much higher cost to produce the car, Rolls-Royce intends to showcase the 102EX to customers and potential buyers during the world tour to see how much interest the 102EX generates.

First shown to the public at the Geneva Motor Show in 2011, the 102EX will make stops at places such as Singapore, China, Los Angeles, New York, and Dubai. Current owners of Rolls-Royce cars and other potential customers will have the opportunity to test drive the car and voice their opinions and feelings to the auto company. Rolls-Royce selected a total of 500 people to test drive the 102EX.

Rolls-Royce has insisted the 102EX would be expensive, if not “impossible”, to produce, mostly because of its massive battery pack. The battery pack will cost at least £100,000 ($160,000), according to Rolls-Royce. Weighing 640kg (1411 pounds), the battery pack contains 96 nickel cobalt manganese cells with a total power capacity of 71 kWh and is considered to be the largest battery ever used in a car. As a comparison, the Nissan Leaf’s battery has a rating of 24 kWh.

The 102EX has a pair of AC motors located where the original Phantom’s gas tank would be. Used also in the Tesla Roadster, the motors are each rated at 145kW (194bhp). The 102EX produces a total of 290 kW (388 hp), is less than the Phantom’s 338 kW (453 hp). However, the electric motors on the 102EX produce considerably more torque.

Before heading out on the tour, Rolls-Royce sent the 102EX to MIRA labs for independent testing. The car’s lithium ion battery was tested in various conditions such as extreme temperatures and humidity. Engineers at the lab confirm the battery continues to operate at temperatures up to 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit).

The testing also revealed a possible concern with the car’s battery management systems, which manages the safety and efficiency of the battery’s cells. At extreme temperatures, the system prevents the car’s battery from being charged until the cells of the battery cools down, ensuring longer battery life and optimal performance. This means drivers must wait some time before the car can be recharged.

The 102EX’s battery takes about 20 hours to recharge using single phase systems (domestic power outlets in the UK) and 8 hours using 3 phase systems. Rolls-Royce is also experimenting with a “wireless” induction charging system that will allow drivers to charge the 102EX by parking it over special induction pads. The pads transmit energy to the car’s battery without the need of any charging cables. The induction charging system can prove to be very convenient; Rolls-Royce claims the system has 90 percent efficiency and could be used to create networks of charging stations.

The 102EX has been tested by a handful of people with mixed reviews. Many agree that driving the 102EX is almost indistinguishable from driving a Phantom. They both have extremely quiet cabins and have nearly the same ride quality, thanks to the air bag suspension that Rolls-Royce uses on both vehicles. A big difference is the acceleration of each car. Where the Phantom’s V12 engine lets out a subtle growl, the 102EX electric motors are nearly silent, only producing a barely audible whine.

Although Rolls-Royce may not be releasing a truly eco-friendly luxury sedan anytime soon, the 102EX is a sign that even automakers of the most expensive and luxurious cars are taking a look at alternative energy sources. The 102EX and the research involved with its development is a step toward independence from petroleum fuels.

Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/jim68000/4673299270

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