There’s something decadent about rolling past an Occupy D.C. protest in a Rolls-Royce. But I wasn’t just driving any Rolls-Royce. This was the Rolls-Royce 102EX, an all-electric concept car that will never go into production.
Granted, I only got it for 30 closely-supervised minutes. During that time, I failed to meet my personal goal of blasting Wu-Tang Clan on the stereo, but for most of us, life is all about compromise, and that’s exactly what Rolls-Royce is trying to avoid if it brings an electric car to market.
With more than 10,000 miles on the odometer, Rolls-Royce has taken the 102EX on a world tour. The company has been using it as a litmus test to see what auto writers, VIPs and existing Rolls-Royce customers think about an electric vehicle. I asked Emily Dungey, press officer at Rolls-Royce, what sort of concerns customers had about an all-electric Rolls-Royce. Not unlike buyers who may consider the Nissan Leaf or Mitsubishi i, Dungey says Rolls-Royce customers are concerned about charge time and how far they can drive.
The 102EX is based on the Rolls-Royce Phantom, which currently starts at $380,000. If you’ve got that kind of coin to throw down, you don’t compromise. Rolls-Royce customers probably won’t buy a car that comes with the constraints of an electric vehicle. The 102EX can travel roughly 125 miles before it needs to be recharged, but the car is big and heavy. As a result, it requires a massive battery pack that weighs over 1,400 pounds and takes at least eight hours to recharge. So while the 102EX offers luxury that most cars can’t touch, it still trails the convenience of electric cars marketed towards the masses. The Nissan Leaf, for example, can get an 80 percent charge in 30 minutes on its quick-charge station.
So will an electric Rolls-Royce ever make it to production, and if so, how will the automaker address these concerns? Those questions have yet to be answered. However, there’s one area where the company hit the nail on the head: The 102EX drives exactly like the Phantom.
I got to drive both cars back to back, and I can tell you that the 102EX does not feel like an electric car. Sure, it’s a little slower than the Phantom, but on my drive around Washington D.C., the 102EX seemed to mirror the Phantom’s accelerator response, as well as steering and brake feel.
With its enormous battery under the hood, the 102EX has two electric motors mounted to the rear axle, which provide roughly 389 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque. That works out to 63 less horsepower, but 59 more pound-feet of torque than the Phantom.
The 102EX’s regenerative brakes have two settings. One captures more power than the other, but the pedal feels exactly the same. Take your foot off the accelerator and you can feel the more aggressive setting at work. The car slows slightly, like a stick-shift car that needs to be downshifted, but it’s not intrusive or jarring.
Rolls-Royce hasn’t solved concerns about charge time and range anxiety, but in my mind the 102EX proves that an electric car can be engineered to drive just like a gas-powered one. For me, that familiarity is more important than the limitations of electric range and charge time - unless I need to drive 126 miles.