Imagine this car, with an electrical cord. It could happen, and fairly soon. Photo: Rolls-Royce.
Fuel efficiency is just about the last thing Rolls Royce brings to mind, but the company may change that with a plug-in hybrid, of all things.
The good chaps in Goodwood know they, too, must meet rising fuel efficiency standards and tightening emissions regs, so they’re experimenting with various ways of squeezing more miles from every liter of petrol. Company CEO Torston Müller-Otvos told Auto Express that making a hybrid “will be essential in two years,” Müller-Otvos said. “Maybe not from customer demand, but through legal regulation on emissions.”
Rolls hasn’t mentioned any specifics for such a car, which is clearly an idea at this point, but Auto Express says we might see it within three years. But if a Phantom plug-in came to pass, it almost certainly would use drivetrain components from corporate parent BMW, which has a range of hybrids, the i3 and i8 electric vehicles, and a plug-in setup (featuring a four-cylinder turbocharged engine paired with an electric motor) for the X5 eDrive. And don’t think Rolls is suddenly going soft. These days, even the LeFerrari has a gas-electric drivetrain, so it’s not like a Phantom with a cord with be a glorified Prius.
This wouldn’t be be the first time Rolls has played with electricity. A few years ago, it unveiled the an all-electric Phantom prototype called the 102EX. The absolutely stunning car was a trial balloon that customers promptly shot down. That’s a shame, because we drove it, and it was bloody brilliant. The whisper-quiet drivetrain and Rolls’ peerless chassis dynamics made it the most refined car of any kind, regardless of propulsion method.
Rolls-Royce sent the car on a promotional tour to drum up interest, but the unequivocal response from customers was “meh”–though Müller-Otvos characterized it as “ambivalent.” Despite producing more torque than the standard Phantom’s V12, the car’s range, claimed at 120 miles, was just too small for consumers to consider. Many also found the technology incongruous with the marque’s identity. They had a point: A car that is the definitive monument to luxury, power, and disposable income, yet it can barely manage the drive from Manhattan to East Hampton. It’s hard to imagine Mark Cuban or Lebron James waiting eight hours for the car to charge, either.
A plug-in hybrid would address those concerns, an Müller-Otvos seems to understand this. “A Rolls-Royce cannot come with any kind of compromise, and both the recharging times and the range were not acceptable for our buyers,” he said. “But with hybrid technology that is no longer a problem.”
A few years ago, the idea of a plug-in hybrid Rolls would have been absurd. But the time is coming when you’re going to see this tech in just about everything.