“When it doesn’t exist, design it,” was Sir Henry Royce’s maxim aired some 100 years ago. Now it is being followed to the letter with the revealing in London of the Rolls-Royce Vision Next 100, an extraordinary concept that is a huge departure from anything that Sir Henry could possibly have envisaged.
It is a purely visionary concept from today’s Rolls-Royce design and engineering teams indicating their views of what could become super luxury mobility reality over the next 100 years. This ultra time projection, created using extensive 3D printing, brings exterior aesthetics the like of which Rolls-Royce has never before dared to present. Fully autonomous technology obviates the need for a steering wheel, a driver’s seat, and all instruments except an analog clock—itself a reminder to passengers that “time not lost is the highest form of luxury.”
What potential customers will make of this project, code named 103EX, will probably be a dichotomy. Some will applaud the 5.9-m-long (19.3 ft), battery-electric Next 100's image and promise, and others might dismiss it—to borrow the phrase of British writer and poet John Betjeman—as showing “ghastly good taste.”
Details of the far distant technology involved are necessarily nebulous. But Rolls-Royce expects the vehicle to be based on an advanced, hand-built, lightweight platform equipped with two high performance traction motors positioned front and rear producing some 500 kW (670 hp) combined, driving all four of the car's 28-in-high (711-mm) wheels. Everything from wheelbase to body design and the car’s various specifications and equipment, could be tailored specifically to suit the needs of the individual customer.
Progress in composite materials and technologies is expected to provide the production capability to provide such levels of customization.
Rolls-Royce sees these vehicles as “unique masterpieces curated as a ‘fingerprint’ of their owner”—a description that could only come out of this brand. The interior becomes a “personal retreat.” For trim, the designers have chosen a carpet of hand-twisted silk with “extraordinarily soft silk” for the upholstery.
Passenger entry and egress sees roof and coach doors opening. Occupants would stand to step from the vehicle onto a light-projected red carpet effect. Their bespoke luggage would be housed in a compartment between front wheel and side door.
A virtual intelligence capability would control the vehicle, embodied in a digital representation of the Rolls-Royce Spirit of Ecstasy mascot. This would appear on a full width transparent OLED display. Called Eleanor after the human model that posed for the original mascot, the more time spent with a passenger the more “she” learns of their preferences in terms of favored routes, restaurants etc.
A real mascot of hand-cut lead crystal with interior illumination (yes, really) would adorn the car’s traditional Palladian-style radiator grille. Of course, all this must not be taken too literally. But there is some indication of future thinking. And it is good to see technology imbued with a fun factor.
The company states: “The customer’s taste will shape exactly how his or her Rolls-Royce will look and how it will be configured.” So a production derivative of the Vision100 might itself prove entertaining.
As Adrian van Hooydonk, Head of Group Design at Rolls-Royce’s parent company BMW sums up the Next 100 concept: “It is an enlightening vision of the fascinating possibilities of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars in the future.”
Would Sir Henry now regret his words uttered long ago, or applaud the freedom of design that may be in prospect if Vision becomes reality? Good or ghastly? Only the next 100 years will tell.