The 102EX is decent to drive but its performance is bland and the batteries take too long to charge
Electric Roller looking for favour Whether the experimental electric Rolls-Royce 102EX hits the production line will depend on what customers tell the company during its current world tour -- PHOTO: ROLLS-ROYCE MOTOR CARS

Eerily silent, seamless and with a generous reserve of torque, the experimental electric Rolls-Royce 102EX mimics rather well the conventional Phantom grand limo it is based on.

In fact, with 800Nm of torque available from the word go (versus 720Nm at 3,500rpm from the conventional Phantom), the 2.7-tonne lithium-ion battery-powered cruiser overcomes inertia like it was the easiest thing to do.

In fact, engineers programmed the control system to temper the car's ballistic take-off and also to preserve the range of the batteries (all 640kg of them).

Hence the 102EX hits 100kmh in about eight seconds, compared with 5.9 seconds accomplished by its petrol doppelganger. And top speed has been limited to only 160kmh.

Despite that, no one will accuse the electric Roller of being a laggard. It feels really quite quick.

In the cabin, occupants are just as shielded from noise and vibration as in a normal Phantom. But the similarities end there.

Instead of the soft purring of a relaxed V12, you hardly hear anything in the 102EX at cruising speeds (except for the umbrella in the door that slides forward with a clunk whenever the car brakes).

There is that unmistakable electric motor whir - more apparent to rear occupants - when the car is extended, though.

And this is the part that might unsettle would-be Rolls-Royce owners. The car resembles other electric cars at higher speeds.

Its performance spectrum lacks multidimensionality, something you can also say of most other electric vehicles. It has that cold, clinical way of moving that you might close your eyes and think of it as a giant golf buggy with very good suspension. It does not help that the steering feels extra light.

Having said that, an electric drivetrain is probably far more suitable in a Roller than, say, a Lamborghini.

Buyers in some countries (Britain, for instance) save a fortune on taxes and fuel if they bought a 102EX instead of a conventional Phantom. The manufacturer also stands to earn a lot of carbon credits with it. That is, if it decides to produce it.

Right now, it is taking the car around the world to gauge how customers perceive it. If the findings favour production, the company will have to address a number of things.

Firstly, the batteries, now stacked in the engine compartment, should ideally be packed under the floor, for better weight distribution.

Secondly, the induction plate near the rear axle, which allows contactless charging, should be tucked higher. It now grazes humps when the car goes over them at speed.

Thirdly, charging time must be shortened and the battery range extended. It takes 20 hours to charge the car via a household socket and eight hours by industrial socket. A full charge takes you 200km - probably much less if the air-con is blasting on a hot day.

If these cannot be addressed adequately, it is best to leave an electric Rolls-Royce project unplugged.

SPECS

ROLLS-ROYCE 102EX

Price: Not for sale

Motors: Water-cooled, rear-mounted UQM PowerPhase

Power: 290kW

Torque: 800Nm

Transmission: Single-speed with rear differential

0-100kmh: 8 seconds (est)

Top speed: 160kmh (electronically limited)

Power consumption: About $8.80/100km

Range: 200km per full charge