Monday, November 11, 2013

Rolls-Royce Phantom Experimental Electric / 102EX [VIDEO]

A battery-powered Rolls-Royce is the answer to a question no one asked. When a car that Rolls code-named 102EX surfaced at last month’s Geneva auto show, skepticism reigned. Offered an opportunity to experience this radical alternative to V-12 propulsion, we took the bait, in spite of the fact that our drive was scheduled for April Fools’ Day—the ideal moment for jokes and hoaxes, even in England.
I quickly learned that the 102EX—a.k.a. the Phantom Experimental Electric—is no hoax and that the motivation for building this one-off did not bubble up from owner discontent. To the contrary, the highly opinionated captains of the universe who buy Rolls-Royces are smitten with their V-12s, and they’d prefer that the factory leave them alone. But last year a harsh reality rattled this illustrious brand’s board of directors: V-12 engines are not sustainable.
Without knowing whether the end would come from environmentalist outcry, government legislation, or mega-city mayors bent on purging internal combustion from clogged streets, Rolls-Royce’s top managers realized that the end of large-displacement, gas-guzzling, dozen-cylinder engines would eventually arrive. Instead of waiting for doom to descend, the board authorized an engineering team headed by David Monks to conjure up a sensible alternative to the V-12–powered Ghosts and Phantoms delivered last year to 2700 well-heeled customers.
Monks and Rolls-Royce chief engineer Andrew Martin acknowledge that it was not their intention to reinvent the electric car. They simply gathered proven electrical components and assembled them into a donor left-hand-drive Phantom sedan with minimal disturbance to the production blueprints. With help from Lotus Engineering (instead of parent BMW), a battery pack and electrical controllers were configured to fit where the 6.7-liter V-12 and six-speed ZF automatic normally live. In the space vacated by the fuel tank, a pair of AC motors was installed along with a single-speed transmission to energize the rear wheels. No trunk space was lost, and the increase in curb weight was reasonably modest—at least in the context of a nearly three-ton automobile—at about 400 pounds
Global Collaboration on Genteel Electrification
Delving deeper into the bill of materials, I learned that Dow Kokam manufactured the 96 prismatic lithium-ion battery cells in Korea and the Scottish firm Axeon assembled them into a 1411-pound, 338-volt pack that provides a 71-kWh energy capacity and a claimed 124 miles of range. (For reference, a Nissan Leaf’s pack holds 24 kWh.) Colorado-based UQM supplied the synchronous permanent-magnet motors, delivering a combined 389 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque to the XTrac transaxle. Another American firm—Seton—provided the experimental vegetable-tanned leather trim for the 102EX’s seats, instrument panel, doors, and floor surfaces.