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AN EXPERIMENTAL
HISTORY

June 2016 saw the launch of the game-changing new Rolls-Royce 103EX. Following the electric 102EX, this model is the latest working prototype to push the boundaries of what a luxury car can be. 

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Rolls-Royce Motor Cars has used the EX name for its experimental cars for more than 100 years. Because innovations from EX cars filter into production models, all new lines include the cumulative knowledge that comes from exploring the future in pursuit of perfection.

All modern Rolls-Royce EX models carry the special red RR badge. Only used for these experimental cars, the red badge represents the cutting edge in automotive innovation.

Unlike a concept car, each EX model is a finished, drivable vehicle. As well as newly developed materials and ideas, such as the carbon fibre, each uses production materials such as leather and wood, rather than clay and foam or other prototypical materials.

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Rolls-Royce founders Charles Rolls and Henry Royce were committed to pushing the boundaries of technology and quality, so they created the concept of EX to investigate the realms of what was possible. Not all prototypes or innovations result in production cars, but all remain fuelled by Henry and Charles’ vision and ethos.

EX is an essential part of the Rolls-Royce DNA. Each car is an expression of a deep-rooted fascination with the future. From Rolls-Royce’s founders to the current team, it’s not only about: ‘What’s next?’, but: ‘How can we create what’s next?’

Rolls-Royce motor cars are like storybooks of science fiction and history: it is hard to remember how the advances of decades past seemed so impressively futuristic, yet the promise of tomorrow’s innovations still excite. 

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The EX models of the modern era began with the 100EX, created to celebrate Rolls-Royce’s centenary in 2004. This experiment explored what a Phantom Drophead Coupé might look like and how it might feel to drive with a very special V16 under the hood. The model was delivered to select customers around the globe to seek their input and feedback. The 100EX eventually evolved into the Phantom Drophead Coupé in 2007, proof that EX models really are a keyhole into the future.

Similarly, the 101EX was the forerunner of the Phantom Coupé. This experimental vehicle was the original home of the Starlight Headliner and illuminated Spirit of Ecstasy, now an optional extra across the marque. Most innovative of all, its body was made from a carbon fibre composite on an aluminium spaceframe. This lighter frame, with its shorter wheelbase, made the car more dynamic and driver-focused than Phantom.

In 2009 Rolls-Royce debuted the new 200EX. Its unique monocoque structure and all-new 6.6-litre twin turbo V-12 engine was specially tuned to deliver more low-down torque. This model eventually became Ghost, taking new thinking and new technology to the production line. 

Today, many car manufacturers are developing electric alternatives to the combustion engine. But Rolls-Royce’s exploration started 100 years ago.

Both Charles and Henry had already worked with emerging electric technologies, many of which we now take for granted. Henry Royce began his career experimenting with electric cranes, and went on to be the inventor of the bayonet light bulb. Charles could also see the benefits of electric vehicles: “They are perfectly noiseless and clean… there is no smell or vibration.” 

It is no surprise then that Rolls-Royce created the 102EX, the Phantom Experimental Electric. This 2011 EX model was a one-off electric-powered Phantom that saw the 6.75-litre V12 engine replaced by a huge lithium ion battery pack and twin-electric motors driving the rear wheels. There were no gearshifts - just power, instantly, whenever you wanted it.

102EX also featured newly developed surface finish technology. Rolls-Royce created a highly reflective paint using ceramic nano particles. Under a microscope, these particles mimic those of silver metal, but are between 8,000 and 80,000 times smaller than the thickness of a hair. The result is a texture that grows in character as light conditions change.  

The interior showcased Seton Corinova, an experimental vegetable-tanned leather that allowed more of the natural curves, creases and other features of the animal’s hide to show.

103EX follows in this tradition of exploration and experimentation. History has proved that, like its 100-year-old antecedents, this EX is a genuine glimpse of the future.

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