By Peter Valdes-Dapena, CNN Business
Rolls-Royce, the British manufacturer of very large and very expensive cars and SUVs powered by 12-cylinder engines, announced Wednesday that it will stop selling gasoline powered vehicles by 2030. From then on, Rolls-Royce will be all electric.
The automaker also announced the name of the first electric Rolls-Royce, the Spectre, which will go on sale in about two years.
In an earlier era it might have seemed shocking that a Rolls-Royce would power a car with anything less than a muscular petroleum-fueled piston engine. However, the “Architecture of Luxury,” the engineering basis for all Rolls-Royce models introduced since 2017, was designed to work with electric power, as well.
The strategy of using the same vehicle architecture for both electric and gasoline powered models is shared by Rolls-Royce’s parent company, BMW. Munich-based BMW has said it wants to maintain the flexibilty to produce fully electric, hybrid, and purely gasoline-powered models so that it can quickly respond to shifts in market demand.
In many ways, electric power would seem ideal for a Rolls-Royce car. The reason Rolls-Royces are powered by V12 engines is that they provide ample power but can also be smooth-running and quiet. Rolls-Royce also uses complex transmissions that rely on GPS mapping data to, again, provide smooth performance.
Smooth, quiet and powerful are terms that can describe many electric vehicles. One major downside of electric drive — the weight and bulk of large battery packs — isn’t really an issue for Rolls-Royce. Even the brand’s smaller models, like the Ghost, are already huge and heavy in comparison to most cars.
Still, Rolls-Royce executives have said in the past that the brand’s wealthy customers did not want to deal with the hassles of charging electric vehicles with their relatively short driving ranges. Rolls-Royce produced a prototype fully electric Phantom a decade ago but said, at that time, customers weren’t interested. That car went only 125 miles on a full charge, though — not very far by today’s standards — and there weren’t very many electric car chargers available. Many electric cars today can go farther than that, and publicly accessible charges are more common now.
Unlike some other automakers, BMW has not given a deadline for shifting to selling only electric vehicles for its namesake brand. Rolls-Royce’s one-time sister brand Bentley, owned by Volkswagen Group since 1998, has also said it will sell only electric cars after 2030.
The Spectre partly revealed
The Spectre will begin testing on public roads soon, the automaker said. Images of the car covered in gold writing to hide design details reveal that it will be a two-door model, similar in shape to the recently discontinued Rolls-Royce Wraith. The Spectre will be entirely different from that car, though, Rolls-Royce spokesman Gerry Spahn said.
“Starting with the new architecture, this will be a totally new Rolls-Royce, and absolutely not a replacement for Wraith or any other Rolls-Royce,” he said in an interview with CNN Business.
The Spectre will share its fundamental engineering with Rolls-Royce’s more recently introduced models, the top-of-the-line Phantom, the sportier Ghost, and the Cullinan SUV. All are based on the so-called “Architecture of Luxury.”
Rolls-Royce has a long tradition of naming vehicles after spiritual apparitions such as the Ghost, Phantom and Wraith. That’s not an absolute rule, however. The Cullinan, for instance, is named after a diamond.
Rolls-Royce provided no details on the expected driving range or performance attributes of th Spectre. Rolls-Royce cars are generally costly with prices starting at over $300,000 for the Ghost, the brand’s least expensive model.
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