ROLLS-ROYCE AND ELECTRIC POWER
- Rolls-Royce reflects on heritage of electric power ahead of historic announcement
- Extraordinary prophecy of founding father, Charles Rolls, revealed
- Rolls championed electric cars in 1900, deeming Columbia model best of its type
- Royce, one of the first electrical engineers, supplied motors to earliest electric cars
- CEO, Torsten Müller-Ötvös, pledged to bring Rolls-Royce electric this decade
- Visit www.rolls-roycemotorcars.com on 29 September at 13.00 BST for the next chapter in this story
“In April 1900, our founding forefather, Charles Rolls, made a prescient prophecy about automotive electrification. Move forward over 120 years to when I made a public promise, on the record, that we would bring the first fully electric Rolls‑Royce to market within the current decade. And, right now, our company is embarking on an historic undertaking to create the first, super-luxury car of its type. This will happen sooner than many thought possible, through the incredible skills, expertise, vision and dedication of our engineers, designers and specialists at the Home of Rolls-Royce.
“In this ground-breaking endeavour, we are drawing on a remarkable heritage, unique in our industry. Our founders and those who worked alongside them in the marque’s formative years were all important pioneers of electric power, as well as their era’s leading experts in automotive engineering. As we herald a new electric future at Rolls-Royce, I am proud and humbled to share their inspiring stories, which have never been told in one place before, and shine a fresh and fascinating light on our company’s earliest days.”
Torsten Müller-Ötvös, Chief Executive Officer, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars
Electrification has long been promoted as the future of automotive propulsion. Mainstream manufacturers are increasingly embracing hybrid and battery electric vehicle (BEV) technology, supported by the expansion of national charging infrastructures.
To date, Rolls-Royce has communicated its electrification strategy in three simple statements:
- The marque will introduce an all-electric car this decade (2020 – 2030).
- This car will be a pure BEV, not a hybrid of any kind.
- It will be launched only when the time is right, and every element meets Rolls-Royce’s technical, aesthetic and performance standards.
There is considerable interest and media speculation surrounding Rolls-Royce’s plans. Ahead of further official statements, we invite the media to reflect on the marque’s unique heritage in electric power, which pre-dates the founding of Rolls-Royce the company itself, and involves many of the principal protagonists whose names are forever associated with it.
WHY ELECTRIC POWER?
The internal combustion engine (ICE) was not the only, nor the default, means of propulsion for early motor cars at the beginning of the 20th century. Indeed, in the early 1900s engineers and manufacturers initially divided their loyalties precisely between three competing technologies: the ICE, steam power and electricity.
Steam power, though well understood, relatively sophisticated and, at the time, ubiquitous in industry and other forms of transport, quickly proved less practical for use in motor cars. It therefore fell to internal combustion and electricity to vie for supremacy.
Electric power lost the battle for two main reasons: extremely limited range and the absence of a charging infrastructure. A century later, despite significant advances, these remain as barriers to widespread adoption (although increasingly less so), both in terms of technology and consumer perception.
But the characteristics that first drew engineers to electric power – silent operation, instant torque, tremendous power and the absence of exhaust fumes – remain highly alluring, particularly for luxury motor cars. Indeed, some have speculated that, had he been able to solve the range and charging issues, Sir Henry Royce might have chosen electric power alone for his motor cars.
The innate and perfect suitability of electric power underpins the marque’s explicit commitment to deliver an all-electric Rolls-Royce this decade. In doing so, it can draw on a unique history and heritage; a connection with electric power that pre-dates the company itself, and featuring the main protagonists who would, between them, create the world’s most famous automotive brand – beginning with Sir Henry Royce himself.
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