How the first Rolls-Royce EV took form

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by news@greencarreports.com (Bengt Halvorson)

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07.04.2023


The prestige luxury brand Rolls-Royce announced in 2021 that it would be going fully electric by 2030

That seemed a particularly bold assertion for a brand that up until then hadn’t ever offered an EV. But now the first of the fully electric Rolls-Royce, the Spectre coupe, is headed for first deliveries late this year, and the brand’s future is much easier to envision.

While I recommend reading my first drive of the 2024 Rolls-Royce Spectre for more about the experience inside, the backstory of how the Spectre came to be is just as interesting. 

How does a legacy luxury brand remake its products that at present revolve around a turbine-like V-12 gasoline engine and have for decades focused around combustion-engine smoothness and engineering prowess? How can a luxury brand that sells its vehicles for roughly a half a million dollars each distinguish itself amid sub-2.0-second Teslas, 500-plus-mile Lucids, 18-minute-charging Hyundais, and Ford F-150 Lightnings that can power the summer house?

The answer: the same way it always has. Rolls-Royce has never been about the bragging rights of numbers. Power was “sufficient,” and the vehicles were more about the bespoke expression of each particular build—and the experience of luxury. 

2024 Rolls-Royce Spectre

2024 Rolls-Royce Spectre

2024 Rolls-Royce Spectre

2024 Rolls-Royce Spectre

2024 Rolls-Royce Spectre

2024 Rolls-Royce Spectre

Within the mammoth rear-hinged doors of this coupe, under the sparkle of a Starlight headliner and cocooned within its phenomenal craftsmanship, comfort, and quiet, what I found was one of the most delightfully simple and straightforward EVs on the market. And don’t get me wrong on that statement: Who said simple meant cheap?

To take a step back: The company decided from the get-go that such a model would need to be a Rolls-Royce first, and an EV second. 

But the team under director of engineering Mihiar Ayoubi understood it would need to also innovate the EV to achieve that.

Read on for several key takeaways on how Rolls’ work with the Spectre isn’t just highfalutin talk about BMW Group EV tech that’s been repackaged—and why in the midst of a brand making sure that it didn’t leave its customers behind, it actually pushes the EV conversation forward.  

Dr. Mihiar Ayoubi - Rolls-Royce Director of Engineering

Dr. Mihiar Ayoubi – Rolls-Royce Director of Engineering

Spectre is a new genre: spacious EV coupe

As I observed in my first drive of the 2024 Rolls-Royce Spectre, one of the most noteworthy engineering victories of this fully electric model is how it manages to feel like a car you sit in, not on. With battery packs propping occupants up several inches, raising floors, and boosting total vehicle heights, it’s easy to make a brand’s first EV a crossover but far more challenging to make it a convincing car. 

Rolls-Royce went that more challenging route, and as it points out proudly there’s less than an inch difference in overall height between the Spectre and the gasoline-powered Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe, while managing to pack in the same interior space. 

2024 Rolls-Royce Spectre

2024 Rolls-Royce Spectre

The automaker achieved this height target by placing the battery pack in a channel under the floor of the body and framing it with extruded aluminum beams that form the four corners. It then designed this model’s inner body-in-white from scratch, focusing in on a lower seating position while keeping the bulkhead (dash and cowl) in position—paying special attention to stiffness at the front and rear axles where as Ayoubi puts it, there can be a “hinge” effect that sours ride and handling.

Simply put, it feels like you’re in a long-and-large car, and I can’t recall any other EVs that pair that impression with boxy styling and upright packaging. The long rear-hinged doors allow smooth access to the back seat without contorting, and it’s workable, even comfortable for this 6-foot-6 passenger. 

In a world of Expeditions, Escalades, and Wagoneers, this is not truly any smaller in footprint, but it’s a form factor that for efficiency’s sake and sheer variety the market needs more of.

2024 Rolls-Royce Spectre

2024 Rolls-Royce Spectre

Why this EV keeps to the ICE form factor

One of the great benefits of electric vehicles is that electric motors don’t take up much packaging space, and without all the space needed under the hood for a mammoth V-12 in Rolls-Royce’s case, it could have resulted in a completely transformative look. 

As Ayoubi explained to Green Car Reports, the Spectre started with the battery pack and needed no allowance for an engine. It was always a given that the Spectre would look like a Rolls, but it wasn’t always the intent that would necessarily translate to such a long hood.

Ayoubi said that Rolls initially considered a more cab-forward project in which it could shore up more of the space in front and have more space inside. But he said that the company met with customers and had some who reacted strongly against the idea of a shorter hood, calling it “a slap in the face.”

The end result does have the shortest front and rear overhang of any Rolls ever, as well as the longest doors.

2024 Rolls-Royce Spectre

2024 Rolls-Royce Spectre

Could a Spectre convertible be one of the first electric droptops?

Mum’s the word with respect to the possibility of a Spectre convertible. But there are a number of hints that, put together, do suggest that it’s a strong possibility. 

Firstly, production of the Rolls-Royce Dawn, with a very similar layout, has ended. 

Secondly, at the mention of the roof design director Anders Warming did point to upper latches that needed to be added to the doors to meet “project goals” for structural support—an essential piece for safety and strength if such a possibility were to exist.

2024 Rolls-Royce Spectre

2024 Rolls-Royce Spectre

Why Rolls-Royce EVs go light on range

As Spectre product and launch manager Rhodri Good put it, the brand’s clients are “not so concerned about that one time a year when they have to drive to their in-laws for Christmas.”

Ayoubi told Green Car Reports that when Rolls looked at its owners to see how many miles they covered, those with the Cullinan SUV used their vehicle the most, followed by the sedans. Its coupes the Phantom and Wraith were driven the least. Looking at the distribution, those who covered 100 miles a week were rare. 

That was a key consideration as the brand decided how large (and heavy) a pack to try to pakage within this coupe, and with all that info about its owners in mind it targeted about 300 miles on a charge (Spectre gets a 260-mile EPA range).

2024 Rolls-Royce Spectre

2024 Rolls-Royce Spectre

Spectre home charging needs to be quick but not bidirectional

Fast-charging wasn’t a big consideration either for this elite crowd—some of which, Aroubi anticipates, will never fast-charge their vehicles. The Spectre is respectable, at 34 minutes at a peak 195 kw from 10-80%. 

On the other hand, Rolls did definitely want to provide support for owners who are “very set on wanting to charge at home.” That means a 22-kw onboard charger, capable of getting a full charge into the Spectre’s 102-kwh (usable) pack in about 5.5 hours. 

Tech such as bidirectional charging isn’t on the menu, either. Owners are likely to have multiple properties, with “more than seven cars to choose from for any occasion,” so thinking of the car as an energy hub for daily life is something of a moot point. 

2024 Rolls-Royce Spectre

2024 Rolls-Royce Spectre

Spectre’s anti-Ludicrous

Electric propulsion systems are almost instantaneous in their power delivery, and not even the Spectre’s intelligent chassis control systems, for its adaptive damping and air suspension, can fully keep up with the hair-trigger response. 

Rather than delivering the whiplash pin-you-back G-forces, Rolls-Royce resorts to a little bit of trickery that in effect delivers a more sophisticated experience in the launch. It delays the power delivery by a fraction of a second so that the chassis systems are ready. Instead of a body motion that whips back from the start, the Spectre stays flat—creating the impression for an instant that it’s actually leaning forward. 

As more EVs get active suspension systems and air suspensions, and as we no longer need the amusement-park ride to prove EVs superior, it’s a feature that more vehicles need.

2024 Rolls-Royce Spectre

2024 Rolls-Royce Spectre

2024 Rolls-Royce Spectre

2024 Rolls-Royce Spectre

2024 Rolls-Royce Spectre

2024 Rolls-Royce Spectre

Rolls cracked the quiet-cabin code

The Rolls-Royce Spectre is almost certainly the quietest EV Green Car Reports has ever driven. And in what might sound a bit like bragging rights at first Ayoubi says that Rolls’ engineers worked so hard on the project they produced a cabin experience that was simply too quiet.

You don’t hear any hum from the motors or whine from reduction gear in the Spectre—or significant road noise or wind noise around those sharp edges and past the somewhat-more-crouched Spirit of Ecstasy. The shocking piece that makes the achievement all the more impressive is that there’s no active noise cancellation used in the Spectre. 

2024 Rolls-Royce Spectre

2024 Rolls-Royce Spectre

Ayoubi said that the team worked on the electromagnetic excitation of the motor and harmonizing any disturbances. Each motor is also encapsulated in frequency absorbers made of aerospace materials, and it worked to choose the wheels themselves based on minimized road noise. The body itself helps filter out noise with hollowed aluminum cavities, while 4.5-mm thick insulated double-paned glass helps lock out other noise. 

He added that it came down to figuring which is the best combinations of frequencies to naturally suppress because a focus too much on some would cause others to pop out and disturb. 

2024 Rolls-Royce Spectre

2024 Rolls-Royce Spectre

“We reached a level that was somehow unpleasant, it was so silent,” he said. “You didn’t feel well—you felt so encapsulated, the only noise you could hear was the clock noise…so we had to accept or to allow a certain level of noise to come back.”

They opted to add just a little back. Having the engineering resources to realize you’ve gone too far with electric-vehicle NVH and need to add some back: A uniquely Rolls-Royce problem. 



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