First Drive: Rolls-Royce 102EX

On the final leg, the "fuel" gauge falls more slowly than the miles accumulate; I don't know whether we're drawing less power or if the gauge isn't perfectly linear, but with about thirty miles to go, my bad math tells me we're going to make it. So, to the distress of the engineers behind, I hoof the 102EX out of intersections. Purely in the interests of dynamic assessment, of course. I'm pleased to report that it feels pretty good; it's deliberately gentle up to about 20 mph, but then you get a lovely, irresistible, guilt-free surge as the vast weight is overcome by even greater torque. It might not be as fast as a V-12 Roller, but it's fast enough.

We pull back into the hotel parking lot in Lausanne with exactly 180 kilometers (112 miles) on the odometer and a little less than a quarter still remaining on the charge gauge. I thought the young engineer tasked with getting the 102EX around the lake without public embarrassment was going to kiss me. Does it matter how far you can drive a car that Rolls-Royce says is purely experimental and will never be built? I'd say yes; by putting such a big battery in such a big car, it shows the limits of the possible. It's the first real exploration of how superluxury cars might drive in twenty years' time. And despite its protestations, Rolls-Royce is going to find it very hard to resist the customers who will arrive with open checkbooks once they've driven this extraordinary car, asking for a 102EX of their own.

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Sounds like the ideal vehicle to go battery-powered. I'm glad there are alternatives popping up.

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