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Rolls-Royce gears up for electric future

From Ayesha Durgahee, CNN
  • Rolls Royce are trailing a new electric version of their Phantom
  • Car is fitted with large battery pack and can be charged using wireless induction
  • Louis Palmer's solar taxi has traveled around the world promoting clean energy
  • Palmer met James Cameron and Ban Ki-moon on his travels

London (CNN) -- There are now more alternative energy cars on the road that ever before -- solar ones, hydrogen ones and fast electric ones like Tesla Motors' Roadster.

Even the luxury market is starting to experiment as Rolls-Royce give its $530,000 Phantom an electric makeover.

"Things are changing in the world quite dramatically and we have to move with those changes. But our customers need to tell us where they want us to go," said Richard Carter, Rolls-Royce's director of global communications.

"That will help us make a very clear decision with regard to drive trends for Rolls-Royce in the years to come. This is what we're trying to find out this year. It maybe perfection or it may be far too much of a compromise."

Rolls-Royce has spent more than a million dollars to make a working prototype -- the 102EX. It has the largest battery pack to be fitted to any vehicle, the company says.

Gearing up for a 'green' future
The car is fitted with a series of coils underneath the car and we have a matching plate that is fitted to the ground
--Andrew Martin, Rolls-Royce chief engineer

And the way it can be charged -- by electromagnetic induction -- may provide an eco-solution for all cars, on and off the road.

"The car is fitted with a series of coils underneath the car and we have a matching plate that is fitted to the ground," Rolls-Royce chief engineer, Andrew Martin said.

The car is charged wirelessly using an inductive charge which generates electricity straight into the battery, he says.

"Eventually the intention would be that the pad would be put into the floor of someone's garage or their parking space. You would drive the car in, park the car, the two systems would 'handshake' and the car would start charging," Martin said.

The company Rolls-Royce are working with on the pads (Halo IPT) hope to fit them to roads one day -- charging cars inductively as people drive.

Electric cars appear to be evolving faster than other green vehicles at the moment, but Louis Palmer, creator of the Solar Taxi thinks cars powered by the sun are ready for the mass market.

"All cars in the world can be solar powered -- it's all possible. That's my vision," Palmer said.

"We have to replace billions of cars which are running with fossil fuels. We are still not prepared for this even though the technology is here."

Palmer spent two years driving his taxi around the world raising awareness. He's had thousands of people sit in the passenger seat including United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon and the film director, James Cameron.

With ten hours of sunshine the solar taxi can be driven for two hours before it needs recharging.

"The idea is to have 10-square meters of solar panels on top of your house. From there you feed electricity into the grid and you can access any power outlet and feed your battery. And 10-square meters of solar electricity gives you 15,000 kilometers a year," Palmer said.

We are all used to jumping into our cars, driving 200-300 miles, making a pit stop and then carry on driving. But this mindset is changing as more people swap the pump for the plug when they run out of juice.