The only emissions released by the Rolls-Royces of the future could be the puffs of cigar smoke from the fat cats in the back seat, after the famously conservative luxury car-maker admitted it could one day produce electric vehicles.
High-profile customers from Donald Trump to 50 Cent may not worry about their carbon footprint when ordering an eye-wateringly expensive, handmade Rolls. But even a brand obsessed with its history has to keep one eye on the future, and a diesel, hybrid or even full-electric Roller is not out of the questions, says Tom Purves, the boss of the BMW-owned Rolls-Royce Motor Cars.
"An electric Phantom in many ways would perform as a Rolls-Royce should because it would be very quiet, with bags of style and no emissions," said Mr Purves. "BMW also has some of the most advanced diesel engines in the world, and in some ways it would be logical to apply that to Rolls-Royce because there is huge torque and we could make it quiet and so on."
So far, an electric Rolls is nothing more than a possibility. "It is not clear yet whether electric cars are truly the answer," said Mr Purves. "Even hybrid technology is not necessarily in a form that is entirely appropriate."
But even countenancing the prospect is a major step for a brand identified so closely with traditionalists' dreams of old world opulence, powered by a massive petrol engine. There is certainly no pressure from Rolls-Royce drivers, who pay a minimum of £300,000 for their cars, and often twice as much. "Our customers are not bothered about what's under the bonnet, they are bothered about how it behaves," said Mr Purves. "But they do expect us to be at least contemporary, so if I take the view that the green agenda is nothing to do with us then we will have difficulties in the future." The reality is that Rolls-Royce will have to do something. With carbon emissions of more than 370 grammes per kilometre (g/km), the three-tonne Phantom is more than twice as environmentally unfriendly as the average car. And European legislation is on its way to mandate a ceiling of just 130g/km for new cars within the next few years.
In the meantime, Rolls-Royce is launching a new model, the Ghost, at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September. Nicknamed the "Baby Rolls", it is "substantially" more carbon-efficient than the Phantom, according to the company. "Each new car is a step forward, environmentally," said Mr Purves. A battery-powered Rolls-Royce is still several steps away, but a rechargeable Ghost may one day float silently out of the showrooms.Reuse content