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Ultra-luxury automakers still hesitant over EVs

Rolls-Royce confirmed February 20 that it will join the electric car club at the Geneva Motor Show, but like many of its luxury counterparts, it seems uncertain that electrified vehicles are the future.

It will show a one-off electric version of its $300,000 Phantom sedan at the show, which is open to the public March 3-13 in Geneva, Switzerland, before sending the vehicle on a global test tour.

Rolls-Royce, one of the world's most iconic - and expensive - automakers, described the model, known as the 102EX, as a "test bed" to gather research for future decisions about alternative drive trains.

The tour will visit Europe, the Middle East, Asia and North America, giving existing Rolls-Royce owners the opportunity to share their thoughts and feedback on their experiences with the company.

Customers and fans will be able to follow the progress of the 102EX on a dedicated website launched this week at http://www.electricluxury.com/.

In a video on the site, Rolls-Royce's CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös asks whether "electric and luxury are in accordance?", and it seems that the brand's other luxury competitors may not have made up their minds either.

Rumors have been flying for years about Bentley's work with hybrid technology, although so far nothing has been confirmed from the United Kingdom-based automaker.

It has, however, been making obvious efforts to green its vehicles, announcing a far-reaching environment program at Geneva in 2008, rolling out greener "FlexFuel" engines to all its vehicles and promising a new powertrain delivering a 40 percent reduction in fuel consumption by 2012.

Aston Martin has traditionally been fairly dismissive of green technology, opting to add the tiny, low-emission Cygnet to its fleet rather than alter any of its V12 supercars such as the DB9, Vantage, Rapide or DBS.

In 2009, Aston Martin's CEO Ulrich Bez said that electric technology "is not something Aston Martin is working on" adding that "it will not represent a true alternative to the combustion engine for a long time."

As Rolls-Royce begins to hint at movement towards the area, it will be interesting to see whether its competitors change their minds.