On Tuesday, Rolls-Royce finally unveiled its first electric model, the Spectre. While a Rolls-Royce EV may seem like a radical idea at first blush, one of the brand's founding fathers actually saw this moment coming way back in the day. Like way back. Nope, earlier than that.
All the way back in the year 1900, RR co-founder Charles Rolls saw the advantages of a car powered by electricity and knew that internal combustion would not be the motor car's final destination. Even more impressively, he also foresaw what would become one of the biggest hurdles to widespread EV adoption: charging station availability. Keep in mind, this was four years before he'd meet Henry Royce and start the car company that would take both their namesakes.
"The electric car is noiseless and clean. There is no smell or vibration; they should become very useful when charging stations can be arranged. For now, they will not be very serviceable – at least for many years to come."
However, his stance becomes less surprising when you remember that electric cars were actually very popular in this era. Of course, they were very different from the Teslas of today but the advantages over their gas-powered counterparts were still the same. Silent, smooth, odorless, emissions-free, and—as big differentiators back then—no gears to shift and no need to hand crank anything to start them.
According to The Globe and Mail, one-third of all cars in Europe at the time were electric. A lot like the EV situation today, most of these early EVs were very much luxury goods, big carriages decked out in pricey materials. They were also frequently marketed to women, which created a certain stigma among men—a stigma that arguably still exists in certain circles.
Fast forward 122 (!) years and Rolls-Royce is finally trotting out an EV. But while the Spectre is the first production electric RR, it's not the first electric car the company has ever built. There was the 102EX, a one-off experimental project that saw an electric powertrain shoved underneath a seventh-gen Phantom.
There was also the 103EX in 2016, another experimental concept that hid electric motors powering ... whatever this is.
So, it's definitely been an interesting journey but the advent of the electric Rolls-Royce has been a long time coming.
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