If there is any car that seems to be well suited to either hybridization or outright electrification, the Rolls-Royce Phantom would seem to be logical candidate. Many of them are used transporting the wealthy around the world's great cities like Paris, London and Manhattan in trips that are not necessarily that long. It's also not unheard for a manufacturer to provide vehicles to customers for field testing, just as BMW is doing right now with the electric Mini E. However, aside from the highly publicized Mini E project, these sorts of initiatives are typically done on the down-low.
So when we heard that someone had spotted an extended-wheelbase Phantom prowling the streets of New York with an extra badge on each of its fenders, we were naturally a bit suspect. The car that was photographed wears hybrid badges of the same type used on all of General Motors' gas-electric vehicles. The driver claims that car was loaned to a VIP client for evaluation by Rolls-Royce. Remember, friends, that Rolls-Royce is owned by BMW – a company that has a partnership with GM, Daimler and Chrysler to develop a two-mode hybrid system. It is certainly not beyond the realm of possibility that BMW might want to evaluate or even build a two-mode hybrid Phantom. However, it is almost inconceivable that any such vehicle would be clad in GM badges.
Adding further cold water to this story is the report earlier this week that BMW and Daimler are looking at dissolving the two-mode partnership and going in a different direction with their hybrid efforts. Our guess is that the owner of this particular Roller simply had a guilty environmental conscience (or a sense of humor) but couldn't bring himself to be seen in anything as pedestrian as a Toyota Prius. We're still waiting for a comment from Rolls-Royce.
Update: Rolls-Royce spokesman Wayne Kung confirmed our suspicions that this is not a Rolls prototype. The company does not currently have any prototypes running in the New York area.