Rolls-Royce to Stop Making Internal Combustion Cars by Decade’s End
(Bloomberg) -- In nine years, Rolls-Royce will stop selling vehicles that run on gasoline, Chief Executive Officer Torsten Müller-Ötvös said in a Sept. 29 announcement. The first of the company’s planned all-electric portfolio, the Spectre sedan, will arrive by fourth quarter 2023.
“With this new product, we set out our credentials for the full electrification of our entire product portfolio by 2030,” Müller-Ötvös said. “By then, Rolls-Royce will no longer be in the business of producing or selling any internal combustion engine products.”
Müller-Ötvös described the news as the most important decision in the history of the brand since Charles Rolls and Henry Royce agreed to build cars together on May 4, 1904.
Since its inception, Rolls-Royce has served as the vanguard of powerful V12 engine technology and quiet, smooth excellence for the world’s wealthiest, most discerning customers. Many of its most iconic models, from the early Rolls-Royce Phantoms to the modern Cullinan, employed the company’s famous 12-cylinder combustion engine technology. As recently as 2019, Müller-Ötvös was saying he’d keep the V12 around “as long as possible.”
During a Bloomberg TV interview following the announcement, that messaging had changed: “We will go electric—it fits perfect to the brand, it is as silent, as torque as our great 12-cylinder engines,” he said.
While Spectre will be the first fully formed production electric car from Rolls-Royce, the brand had previously experimented with a fully operational all-electric Phantom called the 102EX in 2011; an electric 103EX prototype followed in 2016. Rolls-Royce currently offers no hybrid vehicles among a fleet that includes the Phantom sedan, Cullinan SUV, Ghost sedan, Wraith coupe, and Dawn convertible.
The electric motor was a familiar concept even for Rolls-Royce’s founders: Henry Royce’s first venture, named F. H. Royce and Co., created dynamos, electric crane motors, and bayonet-style light bulb fitting. In 1900, Charles Rolls drove an electric car named the Columbia and declared it “ideal,” according to Rolls-Royce records.
But Royce noted that the electric car would not become prevalent until a charging network could be established. Many would argue that this time still has yet to arrive: BMW’s vehicles charge on EVgo’s network of just 800 fast-chargers nationwide. (Presumably, the Rolls-Royce Spectre would charge at a well-appointed home setup rather than resorting to the indignity of charging in public with the masses.)
Further details of the Spectre remain scarce, including pricing. While early rumors say the new vehicle might share motors with BMW’s i7, a spokesman also declined to discuss the drivetrain for the upcoming vehicle. Speaking with Bloomberg TV, Müller-Ötvös confirms that the electric model will have the same high-touch, “handmade” construction as all conventional Rolls-Royces do.
“Nobody here in Goodwood needs to worry about his job,” he says. “It will be fully embedded here at Rolls-Royce in Goodwood. We are well-served with all the semiconductors we need. We’re sitting on an order book as strong as I’ve ever seen it.”
Rolls-Royce’s news will work to keep up with parent company BMW AG as much as anything else. BMW recently introduced its first-ever all-electric SUV, the BMW iX, which will start deliveries in March 2022. It will soon begin delivering its all-electric i4 sedan as well. Earlier this month, the auto manufacturer upped its battery cell orders to $24 billion to keep pace with surging demand for electric cars. During the first half of 2021, EVs contributed 11% of deliveries across the group.
Meanwhile, cross-country rival Bentley has announced it will bring forth a fully electric vehicle by 2025. Bentley has been selling hybrid vehicles for years.
Spectre will be built on the aluminum spaceframe architecture currently found in the $455,000 Rolls-Royce Phantom sedan and designed to underpin all forthcoming Rolls-Royce motor cars. The company says it is currently undergoing 2.5 million kilometers of testing by company engineers to ensure its indestructibility—a simulation that approximates “400 years of use.” It offers a veritable Easter egg hunt for lovers of Goodwood’s pride, since the cars will be tested in “plain sight” on public roads by Rolls-Royce employees, Müller-Ötvös said.
While EV technology has neutered cars from other brands—rendering them more like transportation appliances than driving machines—Rolls-Royces, which are known for their quiet, smooth rides, will naturally excel under battery-power, he continued. “This is not a prototype, it’s the real thing.”
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.