In February 2008, I had talked about how Rolls-Royce, the world’s premier high-end luxury car maker was starting to build large stationary fuel cells that would not be going into their cars.
Rolls-Royce has continued down this path by expanding their fuel cell division in Canton, Ohio, creating approximately 60 jobs, while retaining 32. These utility scale fuel cells will be used by electric companies for supplementary power or by combined heat and power stations in distributed systems for neighborhoods.
Now, at the same time that the luxury car manufacturer has made this announcement they are unveiling their new Rolls-Royce Ghost at the 2009 Frankfurt Auto Show. The sticker price will be around $340,000 when the Rolls-Royce rolls out.
But, I think that Rolls-Royce is missing the boat on this one. High end carmakers such as Rolls did not benefit from the “Cash for Clunkers” program. Most consumers chose much cheaper replacement vehicles.
But, there is a smaller segment of consumers that have proven they are willing to pay a premium for new technology. Take the Tesla Roadster for instance that is an all battery powered vehicle with a price tag of over $100,000. Tesla can’t build these cars fast enough.
And take for instance, the Honda FCX Clarity, in which drivers are leasing for $600 per month for 3 years. That totals $21,600 over the three years in which time they have to give the car back to Honda.
So, the “greening edge” people, those who are on the leading edge of green technology have proven they are willing to pay handsomely to be the first to drive zero emission vehicles.
Does, the Rolls-Royce Ghost have a ghost of a chance of being the company’s first fuel cell vehicle? Well, never say never. While some companies start small and scale up, Rolls-Royce may just be doing things backwards and starting big and scaling down its fuel cell efforts.
The Rolls-Royce Silver Phantom FCV has a nice ring to it. If you build it people will come. And, that’s not just a field of dreams.