Celebration of Excellence
Antons Kuzenko discusses the success of Rolls Royce in developing the efficient battery powered car, “Phantom”. Antons is president at UH Motorsport Society and a part-time writer for Badcreditcarloan.com.au. He is currently studying engineering at the University of Hertfordshire.
Rolls-Royce Motor Cars celebrated their 10 years anniversary of manufacturing the latest breed of Rolls-Royce cars in the heart of UK countryside Goodwood, West Sussex, built on the grounds of a local Lord. The event was hosted by both very welcoming entertainers and employees themselves, who volunteered to man the stands and were giving insightful information about different parts of the business. The event concluded with a speech given by the CEO of the company Torsten Müller Ötvös, who rightfully emphasised the uniqueness of the business and its profitability being of ultimate importance to its mother-company BMW Group.
Among many stands sharing the true nature of Rolls-Royce starting from Paintshop, where you are explained that your car can be painted to match any colour you desire, through to Leathershop, where skilled craftsmen and women are sharing their secrets, and Woodshop, where wood veneers from the most distant places of the world are collected, particular attention was drawing a stand with their electric interpretation of luxury – Phantom 102EX.
Phantom Experimental Electric
Phantom 102EX, also known as Phantom EE (Experimental Electric), is an experimental vehicle used as a test bed for evaluating new technologies and applications in the super-luxury segment of the automotive market. Rolls-Royce experimental cars are different from other concept vehicles by being fully functional, driveable and made out of more tangible materials such as metals, leather and wood rather than clay and foam.
102EX made its first public appearance at Geneva Motor Show on 1st of March 2011 and has undergone and extensive evaluation programme around the world since. As part of the tour it has been to Europe, Middle East, Asia and North America, stimulating the debates whether it can deliver an authentic Rolls-Royce experience to customers in the spirit of the marque or is it just an unacceptable compromise for the quality and luxury ethos of the brand.
Phantom EE features relatively lightweight aluminium space-frame chassis, which is the single most important detail to counter-act the weight of the cells in order to achieve dynamic and effortless ride. Instead of a regular 6.75 litres V12 naturally aspirated Phantom engine and a 6-speed gearbox it is endowed with a lithium-ion battery pack with two electric three-phase axial flux motors mounted on the rear sub-frame. The drive from the motors to the wheels is then transmitted through a single-speed transmission with an integrated electronic differential.
Each motor is capable of 145 kW power output, which sums up to 290 kW available power to the Phantom EE. Coupled with 800 Nm available torque at any given point in time over a wide range of rpm, it closely matches the power of 338 kW and the 720 Nm of torque delivered at 3,500 rpm from a standard Phantom.
Engineering excellence and correct choice of components gives the Phantom EE uncompromised and effortless performance with acceleration time 0-60 mph being just under 8 seconds, compared to 5.7 seconds for standard Phantom, with top speed limited to 160 km/h.
LiNCM (Lithium-Nickel-Cobalt-Manganese-oxide) battery chemistry contains around 230 Wh per kilogram weight. Such high energy density is required to achieve an acceptable range between re-charges, which for Phantom EE is tested to be around 200 km. Not excellent but such are drawbacks of new technology development, which if continued can bring very fruitful results.
It is worth to bear in mind this is the first time this technology has been applied in a super luxury segment, i.e. vehicles priced at more than €200,000.
With what is believed to be the largest battery pack ever fitted to a passenger car, Phantom EE’s overall energy capacity is measured at 71 kWh with peak current 850 A delivered at 338 V DC.
The battery pack consists of 96 Li-ion type NCM pouch cells, housed in five packs so that it resembles the engine and gearbox mass and shape the most. Overall weight of the battery pack is 640 kg. Testing of cells is the most crucial process when comprising a battery pack. To ensure only outstanding performance every cell of 102EX’s battery pack has been tested individually in order to determine its capacity and predict their collateral behaviour.
For efficient battery charging 4 separate charging units are fitted to the battery. 3 are used for either single-phase charging, which would take around 20 hours, or three-phase, which would only take 8 hours to charge fully from depleted state. The fourth charger is used for induction charging, a wireless method of transferring energy from a source to a receiver, another technology trialled on the Rolls-Royce innovation test bed – Phantom 102EX.
Still a Rolls-Royce
The ultimate question stands – can an electrically powered Phantom deliver the true experience of Rolls-Royce? To answer it we would need to look inside it first.
Interior of the Phantom EE is pretty much like an interior of any other Rolls-Royce – a luxurious world of leather and wood. A feeling that you probably shouldn’t play with the buttons not because they might brake but because this or that button probably costs more than your pair of shoes. Every trim panel you touch, intentionally or accidentally, is either made from wood collected at some distant place of the world or leather, giving you a feeling of home and comfort, which is strange because even at home not everything we have is made of wood or leather.
On the outside the story goes the same. Pantheon grille being the most distinctive feature of Rolls-Royce cars, if seen on the road, was left unchanged and still sends out a clear statement about its centenary heritage. On top of the grille sits the second most distinctive feature of a Rolls-Royce – the spirit of ecstasy, and for this Experimental Electric model it is completed in Makrolon, a transparent polycarbonate, and uplit in blue LED to hint at the electrical technology hidden beneath the bonnet, although you would probably need to be much closer to notice the difference.
If this technology “test bed”, the Phantom 102EX, was used to answer just one question – whether it is possible to achieve the best of the world’s luxury in an electric vehicle, a simple answer would be “Yes!” When prices like these are considered, customers are not buying the fuel efficiency of a car or its innovative spirit, they are after comfort and poise and Phantom EE delivers.
Even if municipal infrastructures might not be ready to accommodate for today’s electrically powered vehicles and the technology itself might not be ready, Rolls-Royce made a clear statement that they are ready to deliver automotive excellence and perfection for when the technology finally is.
(All photos courtesy of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Ltd)