It won't be tomorrow and it might not be for a while, but Rolls-Royce CEO Tom Purves recently told Britain's CAR Magazine that he can easily envision a day when the Flying Lady may be perched atop the radiator of a Rolls that forsakes a gasoline engine for an advanced electric powertrain. Karen Vonder Meulen, U.S. corporate communications manager, would only confirm that there are ongoing discussions regarding the prospect of steering the world's best-known luxury brand down the road to a more environmentally friendly future. But the observations made by Purves do have a ring of practical logic -- as well as of inevitability. For openers, the prestigious British marque is owned by BMW AG, the same group that will shortly begin testing a fleet of electric MINI E variants here in America as well as in Europe. BMW also is fully behind -- and helped co-develop with Daimler and GM -- the sophisticated two-mode hybrid technology package that's being introduced in the 2009 BMW X6 Hybrid.
While no mention was made of Rolls actually dropping its existing V12 powerplant lineup, the potential for a portfolio expansion that would include something like a Phantom EV makes too much sense to be ignored. Typically, Rolls owners tend to rack up relatively few miles on their vehicles in any given single journey. Their individual residences also are apt to moot any potential problems with recharging issues the condo crowd might encounter. It's a win-win situation with drivability, as well. With electric motivation, power -- and more critically torque -- would be scalable enough to retain the silky but persistently enthusiastic character of the current cars. Finally, with more and more cities around the world aggressively clamping down on permissible CO2 emission levels, automakers like Rolls may be forced into at least some kind of electric alternative play just to be able to sell vehicles in certain areas.