One of the highlights of the LA Auto Show was a chance to drive the Rolls Royce 102EX, a one-of-a-kind electric Phantom. Powered by two 145-kilowatt motors, one at each rear wheel, for a total of 590 pound-feet of torque, the 102EX has a range of about 125 miles per charge.
Rolls Royce claims the 102EX has the largest passenger car battery in the world, with a peak current of 850A and overall capacity of 71kWh. Rolls Royce put the whole kit into the original engine and gearbox compartments of the Phantom, so there was no massive re-engineering of the vehicle's floorboards or chassis. In fact the only way you can tell you're in an electric Rolls Royce is that the Spirit of Ecstasy grille ornament is made of Makrolon, a high-tech polycarbonate, rather than stainless steel. Oh, it's illuminated too!
In fact, the drive didn't feel too different than a gasoline-powered Phantom when all was said and done. The 102EX is massive in size and as you drive, what you notice most is the near silence. In fact, I made a joke in passing, calling the 102EX "the world's most luxurious golf cart", to the chagrin of the very British engineers in the car with me.
The 102EX had more power than I expected when I floored it on an almost empty side road near downtown Los Angeles, with a 0-60 time that may surpass the normally aspirated Phantom. The ride was smooth, with the single-speed transmission giving the right amount of power on demand and consistent throttle inputs. The 102EX has a top speed of about 100 miles an hour, although the battery would probably drain pretty fast at that speed.
The interior had all the bells and whistles you'd expect from a Phantom, with a distinctive aluminized foil weave taking the place of wood trimmings on the interior panels and an experimental chrome-free leather called Corinova covering most of the rest of the cabin, a combination that befits the future-luxe tone of the car.
Rolls Royce asked a question that wasn't begging to be asked: Does the world need an ultra-luxury electric car? While there isn't really an answer to the question, we applaud Rolls for taking a chance and envisioning a different mode of transport, one of an electric bespoke future, and that's something we can get behind.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.