Make it better with an electric Rolls
Whether Rolls-Royce owners find the whirring of an electric motor more or less pleasing to the senses than the purring of a V12 Phantom engine is academic to most of us. There is more at stake, though, because the people at BMW-owned Rolls-Royce have built an electric version - just one - to test the reactions of Rolls owners, industry specialists and the media. It was last seen in this part of the world earlier this month in Beijing, before heading off to Europe.
Why try to interest people who are used to getting anything they want in a heavier, slower version of a car with a range of only 200 kilometres before it needs recharging? The answer, according to a Rolls-Royce spokesman, is that Europe, California or China 'could introduce new caps on emissions tomorrow and we would be out of business'.
Ironically, both question and answer appear academic when it comes to China and its Rolls-Royce owners. Beijing's plans to spend 100 billion yuan (HK$122 billion) to get 20 million hybrid or battery-powered cars on the road by 2020 have been beset by resistance from car buyers and technological problems. Premier Wen Jiabao says it remains uncertain whether green cars will be winners in the end in the drive to save energy and curb pollution. In that case, neither Rolls-Royce, nor its customers in its biggest potential market, need fear being put off Chinese roads any time soon by new emissions caps.
The US has fared little better, with electric and hybrid cars expected to account for 0.1 per cent of light vehicle sales this year. For the sake of the world's economy and environment, these are good reasons for carmakers to strive for further improvements in the efficiency of models. We trust Rolls-Royce will secure the future of motoring by persisting with an electric or hybrid version, in the spirit of a motto attributed to Henry Royce: take the best that exists and make it better.