The preferred cars of billionaires and beach bums are going electric.
The Mini-based Moke, a rudimentary doorless soft-top, will be offered only as an electric vehicle by 2022.
Luxurious Rolls-Royce, which prices its cheapest model in Australia at $628,000, has given itself until 2030 to abandon petrol-sucking V8 and V12 internal combustion engines.
To prove it’s serious, Rolls has rolled out previews of its first battery electric vehicle, the Spectre coupe, that will go on sale in Australia by 2024.
Now owned by BMW but still based in the UK, Rolls-Royce has minuscule production runs that won’t make a dent in global warming.
But its profile makes this switch a big deal. After all, there is no auto brand that better defines conspicuous consumption and exorbitant cost.
Rolls-Royce CEO Torsten Muller-Otvos said it was “the most significant day in the history of Rolls-Royce since 4th May, 1904”. That’s when Henry Royce and Charles Rolls first met.
“Electric drive is uniquely and perfectly suited to Rolls-Royce motor cars, more so than any other automotive brand,” Mr Muller-Otvos said.
“It is silent, refined and creates torque almost instantly, going on to generate tremendous power. This is what we at Rolls-Royce call ‘waftability’.”
No mention of zero emission there, but it’s a factor for sure.
Rolls’ decision is underpinned by economic necessity. Ever-tightening CO2 regulations designed to combat the climate crisis will eventually damage and finally collapse the business case for fossil-fuelled cars … even if your target market is multi-millionaires.
Rolls has many fellow travellers in recognising this truth. Alfa Romeo, Audi, Bentley, Fiat, Honda, Jaguar, Mini and Volvo have all committed to going all-electric within the next five to 10 years.
But Moke is claiming it will be the first legacy manufacturer to do so, abandoning the petrol engine by the end of the year.
Another British icon goes electric
The Moke was first produced by long-defunct BMC in the UK in 1964.
It was built in Sydney between 1966 and 1981 and examples are still common in our warmer climates and beachside.
“Moke going electric secures the appeal of one of Britain’s best-loved marques for many generations to come,” said Isobel Dando, CEO of Moke International.
“Moke’s marriage of fun, personality and open-air thrills will only be enhanced through the performance and silent running of an electric powertrain. We are proud to write a new chapter in one of British automotive folklore’s best love stories.”
Despite Australia’s tardiness in setting out a co-ordinated national emissions reduction policy and its minuscule (if growing) electric vehicle sales, the local outposts of global auto makers are getting into the act, too.
Korean auto maker Hyundai recently announced pricing for its all-new Ioniq 5 battery electric car in Australia. It starts at more than $70,000, making it a direct rival for the Tesla Model 3.
It sold out within hours of orders being opened on a website.
OK, all up Hyundai has sold only 240 Ioniq 5s, but it did take a record 13,000 expressions of interest for the car and the website did crash when the ordering process opened.
Everyone’s at it
Days before Hyundai broke the web, Polestar, the Chinese-Swedish EV specialist closely related to Volvo, announced pricing for its first Australian model, the Polestar 2.
Available from February, it will start at $59,900 plus on-road costs, matching the cheapest Model 3 locally.
Polestar’s top model with two e-motors and a 480 kilometre claimed range is priced at $69,900, undercutting the equivalent Model 3.
Jeep, the globe’s most famous off-road brand, has rolled out details of its new-generation Grand Cherokee SUV, a vehicle critical to the brand’s global success.
So far the only drivetrain confirmed for Australia is a plug-in hybrid called 4xe, which boosts the orthodox petrol engine with an electric motor and lithium-ion battery to save fuel and increase performance at the same time.
Like other Jeeps, the new Grand Cherokee 4xe is intended to be capable of tackling tough terrain, while also doing it silently with up to 40 kilometres of electric-only range.
Before long, Jeep intends to offer off-roaders that have ditched fossil fuels altogether.
“This is another important step toward achieving our global vision of zero-emission freedom,” Jeep global boss Christian Meunier said.
“By 2025, we plan to offer a fully electric Jeep vehicle in every SUV segment.”
Meanwhile, Ford Australia has confirmed it will have its first battery electric vehicle on sale by about mid-2022.
Now, don’t get too excited if you’re hoping for the hot-selling Mustang Mach-E, because it’s a delivery van called the E-Transit.
But Ford did say it would have at least five electrified vehicles – that’s full EVs and plug-ins – on sale in Australia by the end of 2024, hopefully including the exciting Mach-E.
It’s far from alone among the big brands in Australia in committing to an electrified model rollout.
Toyota, Mazda, Kia, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Volkswagen, MG and Subaru all have a presence in the market already, or soon have plans to be there.