The people have spoken, and they’re not interested in an electric Rolls-Royce.
Since its debut at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show, Rolls-Royce has been traveling the world with its sole Rolls-Royce 102EX Phantom Experimental Electric, gauging how likely current Rolls-Royce owners would be to open their Burberry wallets for an EV adorned with the Spirit of Ecstasy.
Apparently, those folks told Rolls where they could plug it, as Motor Trend reported yesterday that the project has been cancelled. And so, the sole Rolls-Royce EV will forever wear the red badge that marks it as a prototype. Company officials always said that they’d build the 102EX only as long as their customers demanded it, and not a single one did.
Their opinions were quite different than ours. We got the chance to drive the 102 EX shortly after its debut and immediately fell in love. The electric drivetrain’s seamless, silent acceleration and massive amounts of torque seemed perfectly suited for the Phantom, as did the ability to hide the high cost of batteries in the car’s already exorbitant purchase price. We couldn’t imagine range anxiety being a problem for the kind of people who own multiple cars, take private jets for long trips and have a household staff to keep the batteries charged.
Our take was shared by nearly everyone else who drove it and later wrote about it. Of course, Rolls-Royce doesn’t listen to automotive writers. They listen to their customers, 500 of whom said they’d prefer a V12 to 96 lithium nickel cobalt manganese oxide pouch cells, and weren’t at all impressed with the car’s claimed range of 120 miles or eight hour recharge time. As early as last June, customer feedback was decidedly lukewarm.
That’s one of the benefits of running such an exclusive car maker — instant access to the wants, needs and whims of your entire target audience. We’d be willing to bet that Ford, GM and Toyota have each conducted focus groups with far more participants.
Just because the 102EX is dead doesn’t mean we’ll never see a plug-in Rolls, however. Just as company officials learned that their customers didn’t want an EV, they undoubtedly found out just what would interest potential buyers — whether it’s the promise of a future hybrid, range-extended EV, or another car with a V12.