The decision to abandon the internal combustion engine closes the chapter on more than a century of engineering and, in the eyes of CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös, heralds the dawn of another, cleaner, era.
The announcement came alongside news that the first all-electric Rolls will roll off the production line in 2023 - and the first blurry picture of the new model.
The zero-emissions Spectre has been designed around the all aluminum frame used in the £360,000 Phantom, and Rolls is about to embark on a 1.5 million-mile global testing programme - equivalent to 400 years’ of use – from its Goodwood factory.
“This is not a prototype, it’s the real thing,” Müller-Ötvös said.
Rolls Royce was founded in 1904 and built its reputation on the quiet grace of the powerful V12 engine, whose silky excellence - or ’waftability’ - has powered models from the early Phantoms to the modern Cullinan.
While EV technology has been blamed for ripping the fire and fury from other high-end marques, Müller-Ötvös is confident the shift to smooth and silent battery power will not trouble future generations of Roll’s well-heeled and discerning motorists.
He said: “Today is the most significant day in the history of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars since 4th May, 1904.
“On that date, our founding fathers, Charles Rolls and Sir Henry Royce, first met and agreed that they were going to create ‘the best motor car in the world.’
“Using the most advanced technology available to them at the time and by applying their remarkable engineering minds, these two pioneers elevated early internal combustion engine cars, from noisy, uncomfortable and rudimentary means of transportation, by setting a completely new benchmark of distinction.
“Today, 117 years later, I am proud to announce that Rolls-Royce is to begin the on-road testing programme for an extraordinary new product that will elevate the global all-electric car revolution and create the first – and finest – super-luxury product of its type.
“With this new product we set out our credentials for the full electrification of our entire product portfolio by 2030. By then, Rolls-Royce will no longer be in the business of producing or selling any internal combustion engine products.”
Today’s announcement follows in the tyre-tracks of parent company BMW, which recently introduced its first all-electric SUV, the BMW iX.
Among its VIP peers Bentley, owned by Germany’s Volkswagen, plans to issue a fully electric vehicle by 2025, while Tata Motors-owned Jaguar will drop petrol-powered vehicles by 2025.
The UK plans to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030.
Ever mindful of its client base, Rolls has clearly taken trouble to soften the blow to devotees, delving into the archives to unearth evidence showing that before their era-defining partnership, the company’s founders both tinkered with electric motors.
Henry Royce’s first venture created dynamos and the bayonet-style light bulb fitting.
Charles Rolls, meanwhile, drove an electric car named the Columbia and declared it “ideal” as early as 1900.
But Royce noted that the electric car would not become widely adopted until a comprehensive charging network was in place.
The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority warned this month that the UK has only 25,000 of up to 480,000 public charge points it will need to feasibly meet the 2030 goal.
If we are to reach the era Royce envisioned, the authorities need to put their foot down.