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Rolls-Royce Rolls Out 102EX Battery Car Concept

Green extreme machine to debut in Geneva.

by on Feb.21, 2011

Is Rolls-Royce ready to plug into battery power? The 102EX concept will serve as the anchor of a year-long feasibility study.

Rolls-Royce is taking green to the extreme with the 102EX concept car it plans to unveil at the Geneva Motor Show, early next month.

Electric propulsion is the hot topic in the auto industry, these days, but most makers are focusing on smaller vehicles that require relatively little energy – which translates into a reasonably-sized battery pack.  The 102EX goes the opposite direction, exploring the idea of using lithium-ion technology to power the nearly 3-ton Rolls-Royce Phantom sedan.

What Rolls claims will be the world’s first battery-electric ultra-premium sedan will go into a year-long pilot program to explore the potential for using alternative power for the maker’s exclusive products.

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“With this vehicle, we begin an exploration into alternative drive-trains, seeking clarity on which alternative technologies may be suitable to drive Rolls-Royce motor cars of the future,” explains Rolls-Royce CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös, speaking from the company’s headquarters in Goodwood.

Also known as the Phantom Experimental Electric, the one-off model will be used not only to test the technical viability of battery power but also to gauge the response of Rolls-Royce owners, through a series of test drives around the world.

Rolls officials aren’t giving out the tech specs on the 102EX until Geneva, but considering the heft of the Phantom, which tilts the scales at 5,800 pounds with a conventional V12 powertrain, it will require a huge battery pack.  The Nissan Leaf weighs in at 3,400 pounds, including its 24 kilowatt-hours of lithium-ion batteries, so to get a similar range of around 100 miles, one might expect the electric phantom prototype to need more than 40 kWh, perhaps 50.

What is uncertain is what steps Rolls is taking with the 102EX to both reduce the mass of the vehicle – through the use of composites, aluminum and other lightweight materials – and improve its aerodynamics

The good news is that electric propulsion generates maximum torque as soon as a motor starts turning, which is useful for a vehicle the size of the 102EX.  Industry observers expect that the 102EX will be likely to use more than one electric motor.

The British marque reportedly relied heavily on the expertise of its German parent, BMW, in the development of the 102EX.  The Bavarian maker is pushing heavily into alternative power and will also have plenty to say about its new battery-based sub-brand, BMW I, at the Geneva show.

Considering the way major markets around the world are tightening both emissions and mileage standards, Rolls has reason to consider battery-electric applications.  But company officials caution they aren’t ready to roll out a Rolls battery car.

“I must be convinced that any alternative drive-train we choose for the future delivers an authentic Rolls-Royce experience,” stressed Müller-Ötvös. “It must be a technology that is right for our customers, our brand and which sets us on a sound footing for a sustainable future.”

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