‘Autonomous driving? We’ve had chauffeur-driven vehicles for years’

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Giles Taylor
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The interior of the Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII
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Reveal of the Phantom VIII in Dubai by CEO Torsten Muller-Otvos
Updated 25 November 2017
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‘Autonomous driving? We’ve had chauffeur-driven vehicles for years’

LUCERNE: Giles Taylor has worked on projects such as the Phantom VIII since he became director of design at
Rolls-Royce in 2012. In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Taylor explained the challenges of designing the Phantom VIII, which he says combines “handmade ingenuity” and the latest technology, and Rolls-Royce’s approach to innovation.

Q: What kind of challenges have there been during the design of the Phantom VIII?

A: There was no brief written down; the only brief was another Phantom. The objective was to design a masterpiece and the challenge was how to balance classicism with modernity and keep that sense of timelessness. We needed to understand the historical foundation and then reinterpret it for the future.

Q: How long did the Phantom VIII project take from start to finish?

A: About five years and six months.

Q: I noticed the use of feathers and perishable materials in the Phantom’s “gallery” (the glass-covered art space on the dashboard). How can these fragile materials last?

A: The feathers have been age-accelerated and treated by heat and ultraviolet lights that simulate three years of service. Then we shake them so that the microfibers come free. They become less shiny but they will not disintegrate under hot or humid conditions.

Q: How far along is the production process and when will the Phantom VIII arrive in the markets?

A: We have started production and I think deliveries will start in 2018. Some customers will get their Phantoms in December this year.

Q: Have you received commissions for artworks in Phantom galleries?

A: Yes, we have. The time for delivery for commissioned pieces is going to be about six to eight months. It is similar to bespoke orders, which take about three more months to deliver.

Q: Do galleries come as part of standard specifications or bespoke department orders?
A: They will be offered as an option. So at the moment basic cars come with a lovely silk fabric, which is the standard pattern. Customers can have metal or wood versions or silk. There are five basic galleries that customers can order and they are all beautiful objets d’art.

Q: Where do you get the inspiration and skills needed for these projects?

A: The team we have in Goodwood comes from many disciplines such as textiles, the fashion industry and metalwork. We also have access to craft fairs and other events around the world. It all centers on handmade ingenuity. It is somehow similar to handmade watches. People love these objects and want them; they will pay big money for them.

Q: How do you see modern technology and advances in the industry?

A: It is a genuine opportunity for me. In the context of Rolls-Royce we have had autonomous driving for many years because we have chauffeur-driven vehicles. We also focus on convenience technology in terms of connectivity to social media and personal music. A Rolls-Royce also provides a suitable atmosphere to conduct business on long journeys. As far as electric cars go, they are coming and we are ready for them. The platform of the Phantom VIII is electrifiable. We have a date in the diary for an all-electric Rolls-Royce — and it is within 10 years.

Q: What is next in the pipeline from Rolls-Royce?

A: In July next year we have the high car (the Cullinan SUV vehicle). In the first half of 2018, the car will come to the Middle East and people can order it in VIP private viewings. It will be driven by the media in the summer of next year. On the horizon there is going to be a new Ghost, new Wraith and a new Dawn.

Q: In interior design, is attention given to the back seats more than the front seats?

A: Back seats are very important and we spend more time putting great features there — some for the first time. Back seats provide a cosseted and calm place with entertainment screens, controls within reach and access to drinks.

Q: In the region, VIPs hate to wait long times for deliveries, do you have any advice on how to avoid this?

A: From a design point of view we will embed more bespoke choices in the showrooms so more options can be offered from the outset. With a video link between showrooms and the studios at Goodwood, we can make the process much faster.

Q: Is it true that there will be no other versions of the Phantom VIII such as a drophead or a coupe?

A: There are no plans at the moment for other versions of the Phantom VIII. In the future there may be commissioned versions or special collections but nothing is firm at this stage.


Saudi energy minister compares electric vehicle ‘hype’ to peak oil misconceptions

Updated 15 October 2018
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Saudi energy minister compares electric vehicle ‘hype’ to peak oil misconceptions

  • Khalid Al-Falih on Monday questioned what he described as the “hype” of the electric vehicle market
  • Compared it to past misconceptions around the theory of peak oil

LONDON: Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih on Monday questioned what he described as the “hype” of the electric vehicle market and compared it to past misconceptions around the theory of peak oil.
He told the CERAWeek energy gathering by IHS Markit in New Delhi that petrol and diesel engines would co-exist with emerging electric and hydrogen fuel cell technologies for much longer than widely expected.
Miscalculations around the pace of electrification could create “serious” risks around global energy security, he said.
“Conventional vehicles today, despite all the hype, represent 99.8 percent of the global vehicle fleet. That means electric vehicles with 0.2 percent of the fleet, only substitute about 30,000 barrels per day of oil equivalent of a total global oil demand of about 100 million barrels.
“Even if those numbers increase by a factor of 100 over the next couple of decades, they would still remain negligible in the global energy mix.”
He said: “History tells us that orderly energy transformations are a complex phenomenon involving generational time frames as opposed to quick switches that could lead to costly setbacks.”
In another broadside aimed at electric vehicles, the Saudi energy minister highlighted past misconceptions about global energy demand growth — and specifically the notion of “peak oil.”
“I remember thought leaders within the industry telling us that oil demand will peak at 95 million barrels per day. Had we listened to them and not invested . . . imagine the tight spot we would be in today.”
“Let’s also remember that in many parts of the world, roughly three fourths of the electricity, which would also power electric vehicles, is currently generated by coal, including here in India. So you could think of any electric vehicle running in the streets of Delhi as essentially being a coal-powered automobile.”
“When it comes to renewables, the fundamental challenge of battery storage remains unresolved — a factor that is essential to the intermittency issue impacting wind and solar power. Therefore the more realistic narrative and assessment is that electric vehicles and renewables will continue to make technological and economic progress and achieve greater market penetration — but at a relatively gradual rate and as a result, conventional energy will be with us for a long, long time to come.”