‘The electric car is perfectly noiseless and clean. There is no smell or vibration. They should become very useful when fixed charging stations can be arranged.’
It’s hard to believe that these words were written in 1900; well over a century before there were even conversations about electric vehicles, let alone their realisation. But these prophetic words were written by one Charles Rolls, the pioneering petrolhead half of Rolls-Royce, the luxury marque that he would establish just four years later. Fast-forward to 2023 and Rolls-Royce has unveiled Spectre, its first fully electric car. The company has dubbed it ‘the world’s first ultra-luxury electric super coupé’.
Testing of the marque’s first EV was confirmed in late 2021, but it transpires that the roots of an electric Rolls-Royce go back much further. This autumn, as the first Spectre owners eagerly began receiving their purchases, the European media were invited on an exclusive first drive of the car through rolling Sussex and Hampshire countryside, starting at Goodwood, the home of Rolls-Royce, and on to Heckfield Place, a stately country hotel.
Spectre is a milestone for the company, but the message of the vehicle is clear from the offset – it is a Rolls-Royce first and an electric vehicle second. Interestingly, 40 per cent of Spectre orders have been from clients who have never owned a Rolls-Royce before. These particular customers, explains Rhodri Good, the company’s product and launch manager, have been biding their time waiting for such a release from the luxury marque while eschewing the more clinical aesthetics of Tesla et al. Spectre is a new and exciting animal, but it is a Rolls-Royce through and through.
The first thing that strikes you about Spectre is its size. This is a colossal machine, spanning nearly 5.5m and weighing 2.9 tonnes (700kg of which is the battery). Even the door-span is albatross-like at 1.5m, though the doors open and close with ease, and can now be closed by the driver via the brake pedal. The wheels stand at 23 inches and the stainless-steel grille is the widest ever created for a Rolls-Royce. Atop the bonnet sits the iconic Spirit of Ecstasy, which has been subtly redesigned to align with the aerodynamic architecture of the car. The interiors are naturally luxurious, boasting the familiar Starlight Headlining (now standard in every Rolls-Royce) with the option of adding additional celestial lights to the doors for the first time.
But what about the all-important electric capabilities? Spectre’s all-aluminium ‘space-frame’ (chassis) houses a 102kWh lithium-ion battery, made using cobalt and lithium from controlled sources in Australia, Morocco and Argentina. The battery cells are produced using 100 per cent green electricity. Charge time from 10 to 80 per cent takes 34 minutes, giving a range of 329 miles on a full battery – more than sufficient for the average Rolls-Royce user.
Before it hit the road, Spectre underwent typically rigorous testing – fastidious even for Rolls-Royce – with a unique programme that traversed more than 2.5 million kilometres in every possible terrain and temperature; simulating over 400 years of normal use. Yes, 400. So by the time the (largely superfluous) keys are placed in our hands, we’re safe in the knowledge that Spectre is a well-oiled machine (so to speak). Rhodri Good points out that, although large in size, the car appears to ‘shrink around you’ once you step inside. That is to say it fits like a particularly luxurious glove.
According to Good, many customers and Rolls-Royce employees have praised Spectre as their favourite Rolls-Royce to drive so far, and it’s easy to see why as it whips around corners and floats through country lanes with all the grace and power of a yacht on water. It’s easy to forget that you are driving an electric vehicle (although the default setting mimics an internal combustion engine), but just a gentle nudge of the accelerator reminds you that this dynamic machine is capable of going from 0-60mph in 4.4 seconds. Torsten Müller-Ötvös, Rolls-Royce’s CEO, describes the launch of Spectre as ‘the start of a bold new chapter’ for the marque, concluding confidently that it is the ‘most perfect product that Rolls-Royce has ever produced’. Brummell would have to agree – and if this just a taste of what’s to come, the future of electric vehicles is an exciting one.