British luxury automaker Rolls-Royce announced on Wednesday that its first fully electric vehicle, the ‘Spectre’, had begun on-road testing and that the company would transition to a fully electrified product portfolio by 2030.
Rolls-Royce has been making much, this week, out of its long-awaited first EV announcement. However, unlike other automakers, Rolls-Royce is able to trace its heritage of electric power back to 1900 when one of its two founders, Charles Rolls, described electric propulsion in such a way that rings eerily like prophecy.
“The electric car is perfectly noiseless and clean,” said Charles Rolls in an interview published in The Motor-Car Journal in April 1900.
“There is no smell or vibration, and they should become very useful when fixed charging stations can be arranged. But for now, I do not anticipate that they will be very serviceable – at least for many years to come.”
Rolls-Royce described earlier this week their planned EV announcement as “A Prophecy, A Promise, and An Undertaking.” Continuing the theme that would make any writer blush, Rolls-Royce’s announcement on Wednesday began with the headline, “A Prophecy Fulfilled, A Promise Kept, A Remarkable Undertaking Underway.”
Dramatic oratory aside, the announcement by Rolls-Royce is not without its own gravitas and sense of history, and company CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös was quite obviously proud to announce Rolls-Royce’s first fully electric car, the ‘Spectre’.
Due to come to market in the fourth quarter of 2023 – following the company’s promise that an all-electric car would be released this decade, but “only when the time is right, and every element meets Rolls-Royce’s technical, aesthetic and performance standards” – the Spectre has begun on-road testing and will cover 2.5 million kilometres of global testing – “a simulation of 400 years of use”, according to Rolls-Royce.
“Today is the most significant day in the history of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars since 4th May, 1904,” said Torsten Müller-Ötvös, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Chief Executive Officer. “On that date, our founding fathers, Charles Rolls and Sir Henry Royce, first met and agreed that they were going to create ‘the best motor car in the world’.
“Using the most advanced technology available to them at the time and by applying their remarkable engineering minds, these two pioneers elevated early internal combustion engine cars, from noisy, uncomfortable and rudimentary means of transportation, by setting a completely new benchmark of distinction.
“The cars they created, introduced to the world a true luxury experience and secured for Rolls-Royce the ultimate pinnacle position that it continues to occupy, unchallenged, to this day. The marque has continued to define the very best in internal combustion motoring for more than a century.
“Today, 117 years later, I am proud to announce that Rolls-Royce is to begin the on-road testing programme for an extraordinary new product that will elevate the global all-electric car revolution and create the first – and finest – super-luxury product of its type. This is not a prototype. It’s the real thing, it will be tested in plain sight and our clients will take first deliveries of the car in the fourth quarter of 2023.”
Unsurprisingly, Rolls-Royce unveiled no specific details about the car except its name and promised release date. Instead, the official press release published Wednesday allowed Torsten Müller-Ötvös to wax poetic about the company’s history and the long-awaited promise of electric Rolls-Royce vehicles.
“At Rolls-Royce, we have been experimenting with an electric powertrain for some time,” said Müller-Ötvös. “In 2011 we revealed 102EX, a fully operational all-electric Phantom. We followed this in 2016 with our fully electric 103EX, which represented our vision for the marque several decades into the future.
“These extraordinary products prompted a huge amount of interest in electric powertrain technology amongst our clients. They considered it as the perfect fit for Rolls-Royce. And, over the past decade, I have been repeatedly asked, ‘When will Rolls-Royce go electric?’ and ‘When will you produce your first electric car?’
“I answered with an unambiguous promise: ‘Rolls-Royce will go electric, starting this decade.’ Today, I’m keeping my word.”
On-road testing of the Spectre will take place all over the world, according to Müller-Ötvös. “You will see these test cars on roads, around the world. Look out for them – they will be in plain sight. They will be tested in all conditions and over all terrains on their multi-million-mile journey – that will literally accelerate Rolls-Royce into the future.”
Built around the company’s proprietary Phantom aluminium architecture launched in 2017 – which allows for “scalable and flexible spaceframe that would underpin all forthcoming Rolls-Royce motor cars” – the Spectre will be Rolls-Royce’s first step on the road towards a full electrification of its portfolio of vehicles.
“With this new product we set out our credentials for the full electrification of our entire product portfolio by 2030. By then, Rolls-Royce will no longer be in the business of producing or selling any internal combustion engine products,” said Müller-Ötvös.
“Spectre is the living fulfilment of Charles Rolls’ Prophecy. My Promise, made on behalf of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, is kept. Now we begin a remarkable undertaking. I am proud that we will continue to propel the world’s most progressive and influential women and men into a brilliant, electrified future.”
Joshua S. Hill is a Melbourne-based journalist who has been writing about climate change, clean technology, and electric vehicles for over 15 years. He has been reporting on electric vehicles and clean technologies for Renew Economy and The Driven since 2012. His preferred mode of transport is his feet.