Rolls-Royce 120EX concept shown in Geneva. Its a one-off, fully electric powered Phantom that will serve as a test bed to gather a bank of research data for future decisions on alternative drive trains for Rolls-Royce.

Rolls-Royce 120EX concept shown in Geneva. It's a one-off, fully electric powered Phantom that will serve as a test bed to gather a bank of research data for future decisions on alternative drive trains for Rolls-Royce.

The electric limousine is potentially decades away, prestige car engineers said at an Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) debate.

The annual event, held at Bath University and featuring representatives from some of the world's leading prestige car brands, discussed the challenges facing prestige car manufacturers in a low carbon society.

John Bickerton, the IMechE event organiser, said after the event: "The consensus among the panel was that fuel efficiency is becoming increasingly vital in car manufacturing, even for the traditionally gas-guzzling luxury car market.

"However it is clear that we're unlikely to see an electric Rolls Royce, Bentley or McLaren cruising down our motorways for some years yet."

"This was a lively, spirited debate between some of the biggest names in motoring, and we hope to match the quality of the event again next year."

The panellists, including senior representatives from McLaren Automotive, Bentley, Rolls Royce and Aston Martin, gave a range of views on how they saw the prestige car market adapting to a low carbon future.

Brian Gush, Bentley's Powertrain Director, said:

"Our customers say that they do care about the environment, but that it's up to us to do something about it. However the internal combustion engine is with us for the foreseeable future.

"80% of automotive fuel in 2100 will still be liquid fuel. 50% of that 80% will be hydrocarbon based and the other 50% from renewable sources such as biofuel and synthetic fuels.

"The next arms race will be g CO2/bhp as none of us makes utilitarian items."

Anthony Sheriff, MD of McLaren Automotive, said:

""For us, pure electric drivetrains are not yet viable, but I have no doubt that they will soon be a consideration."

Peter Richings, Chief Engineer for hybrid technology at Jaguar Land Rover, said:

"We always wanted 'petrolheads' - perhaps now we need 'voltheads' as well."

Ian Minards, Product Development Director at Aston Martin, said:

"Small doesn't have to be cheap. Controlling vehicle mass is where I would like to see the engineers of the future working"

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