(Bloomberg) — Rolls-Royce has completed the first step toward fulfilling its promise to sell only electric vehicles by 2030. On Oct. 18 it unveiled the all-electric Spectre at company headquarters in Goodwood, England.
“This is not a kind of one-hit wonder and then we go back to the 12-cylinder, that’s not the idea,” says Torsten Müller-Ötvös, chief executive officer of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Ltd. “The idea is we go electric by the end of 2030, step by step by step by step. For this reason, [Spectre] is very expensive to develop. It’s a big investment.”
Müller-Ötvös declined to specify how much money the company has plunged into the all-new production iteration of the EV it began testing as far back as 2011, though he says the Spectre would provide as healthy a profit margin as those amply generated by Rolls-Royce’s Phantom and Ghost sedans.
“It would not be acceptable to have different contribution margins due to the fact that we go electric,” he says. “We want to stay in that league of profitability we are in, and we are nicely profitable. That’s the way forward.”
The announcement gives Rolls-Royce a strong first statement among the ultra-luxury set. In January, Bentley announced it would spend $3.4 billion to produce five all-electric vehicles beginning in 2025 and switch to an entirely electric portfolio by 2030. With the Spectre, Rolls-Royce beats its archrival in bringing the first all-electric ultra-luxury model to market.
Magic Carpet Ride, Electrified
Similar in look and size to the two-door Rolls-Royce Wraith but larger, and built on the same all-aluminum architecture that underpins the flagship Phantom sedan and midsize Ghost sedan, the Spectre produces 577 horsepower and 664 pound-feet of torque. It has a zero-to-60 mph sprint time of 4.4 seconds and a top speed of 155 mph, roughly equal to that of the Ghost but far slower than the roughly three seconds claimed by the faster—and far less luxurious—variants of the Porsche Taycan or Tesla Model S. Total driving range under electric power is 260 miles, according to Environmental Protection Agency estimates; Spectre will be ale to charge from 10-80% full in 34 minutes. Müller-Ötvös noted that the vast majority of Rolls-Royce owners will never use a public charging station.
“Most of our clients have an electric car in the garage,” he says. “On average, they have seven cars, and many have charging at home. They have charging in their offices.”
The two-door coupe uses a highly sensitive “planar” suspension system that can decouple the car’s anti-roll bars to allow each wheel to act independently, preventing the rocking motion that occurs when one side of a vehicle hits an undulation in the road. This also reduces high-frequency sounds caused by poor road-surface quality and helps preserve the marque’s reputation for producing the quietest, smoothest vehicles on the market. All told, more than 700 kilograms’ (1,543 pounds’) worth of sound-deadening equipment helps push the car’s total weight to 6,559 pounds.
Set on 23-inch wheels and with a fastback body style, the Spectre is longer and heavier than the Wraith and harkens back to the Phantom coupe that Rolls-Royce produced from 2008 to 2016. (It doesn’t have a trunk in the front, as do many lesser EVs such as those from Lucid and Tesla. The space under the hood is occupied by battery-electric systems and fluid containers for the windshield wipers.)
It has the widest grille ever bestowed on a Rolls-Royce, illuminated with 22 LEDs lighting up the sandblasted rear side of each of its vanes. A redesigned Spirit of Ecstasy figurehead on the hood comes crouched, yoga-like, lower than its predecessor, with her head tilted higher and wings flattened into a more active pose. The cabin comes with doors newly illuminated by 5,876 tiny light points made to resemble the starry sky—a continuation of the signature effect Rolls-Royce has long produced on its vehicles’ ceilings. All-new front seats are inspired by British tailoring; they offer lapel sections that can be rendered in contrasting or matching colors to the main base. In the debut model, a chartreuse-and-black two-tone paint job follows the top hood of the car over the roofline to the rear trunk, completing the new coupe’s bolder look. The dual-color effect is optional among more than 44,000 available color combinations—but recommended by Rolls-Royce brass, since it accentuates the seamless curves that run the length of the vehicle.
“In my view, every Rolls-Royce should be two-tone,” says design director Anders Warming, noting that Rolls-Royce chose to premiere its first EV in a coupe body style—as opposed to a sedan or SUV—as an emotion-based pick “just to charge us up.”
The Spectre takes its name from the deep recesses of Rolls-Royce history. In 1910 the brand built a demonstration car called the Silver Spectre. By 1936 it had made nine experimental cars code-named Spectre before the model entered production under the official name of Phantom III. This is the first time the moniker has been given to a series production Rolls-Royce.
It’s been a long time coming. Rolls-Royce had for years approached the electric-vehicle proposition with some trepidation, even though co-founder Charles Rolls predicted in 1900 that the new motorized carriages of the day would eventually run under electric power, according to company records. Despite some early testing of electric prototypes in 2011 and 2016, Müller-Ötvös said as recently as 2019 that he wanted to keep the powerful V-12 combustion engine responsible for Rolls-Royce’s world-famous quiet, smooth coaches for “as long as possible.”
But parent group BMW AG has left no doubt where all of its brands must go. Last year the company introduced its first-ever all-electric iX SUV and all-electric i4 sedan. The manufacturer has reported that its battery cell orders have exceeded $24 billion to keep pace with surging demand for electric cars. During the first half of 2021, EVs contributed 11% of deliveries across BMW Group. In a roundtable discussion on Oct. 17, BMW AG Chairman Oliver Zipse said he anticipated that by 2030, 50% of all vehicles sold across the group would be electric.
Pricing for the Spectre will range between the $350,000 of the Cullinan SUV and $460,000 of the Phantom sedan, according to a spokesperson. Müller-Ötvös says production volumes will fall behind those of the Cullinan and Ghost but exceed the Phantom’s. More than 300 clients have already been specially invited to see the car, with overwhelmingly positive results, he says.
“The order intake so far is very, very delightful—and very encouraging,” Müller-Ötvös says.
Deliveries begin in the fourth quarter of 2023.