This is the future of Porsche, and it's piston-less! This car is so important, in fact, that we even had a police escort.
By the end of next year, the first completely electric car from Porsche – the Mission E, a concept car first showcased at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show – will be launched. And it’ll be called the Taycan. Needless to say, it’ll be both a challenge and a bet – a challenge to the past, and a bet on the future.
It represents a hinge – a pivotal point between a past characterised by the use of fossil fuels and a future that cannot possibly be anything but electric. The Taycan, then, covers a lot of ground, at least on paper – starting with a 0 to 100km/h sprint of just 3.5 seconds. But the essence of the vehicle lies elsewhere. What we need to do is go beyond mere numbers, and understand the car better. So, we did the obvious thing – we drove the Cross Turismo version of the Mission E on the roads leading to Malibu, California.
An electric Sport Turismo
The car has abundant space, and that’s not only because of its generous dimensions – it’s 4.95 metres long, with a wheelbase of around 2.90 metres (official numbers are yet to be released) – but its mass centralization makes it less cumbersome than a traditional setup. With batteries spread under the floor of the car, it’s a very well balanced vehicle. Speaking of which, it has a 90kWh pack – developed in collaboration with LG, which powers the two electric motors. The whole mechanism is similar to the one found in the 919 Hybrid racer, which has won the 24 Hours of Le Mans more than once. Both motors – one in the front, and the other at the rear axle – generate a total power output of over 600bhp. The motors are permanent magnet synchronous motors, because these are the most efficient and they develop little heat – a characteristic that also makes them suitable on the race track, something that’s very important keeping in mind the rich tradition of the brand.
So far, we’ve talked about the car’s performance in a straight line, but what about around corners? Since the car is still a prototype, in order to drive it one the road, we had to be escorted by a couple of police vehicles. Naturally, the idea was to exercise caution and be safe, so my views will have to be taken as provisional for the moment – even though the cops did everything they could to help us understand the car’s behaviour on the road. With this in mind, let me tell you that the car is everything that’s expected from a Porsche – whether electric or not. On paper, everything seems reassuring too. Beside the positioning of the batteries, there’s also all-wheel steering, anti-roll bars and an all-wheel drive system with Porsche Torque Vectoring. Yes, all this is real, even though the car we were driving had off-road tires – useful, more than anything else, to justify the word ‘Cross’ in its name. The noise isolation inside is total and complete, which is part of the charm of this Porsche.
Initially, the total noise isolation may seem a bit unusual and require some getting used to – but soon it becomes fascinating, especially when coupled with the high levels of performance of this car. But Christopher Sachs, Head Engineer for the Mission E project, is still not satisfied. He told me in a conversation that the biggest challenge was to make the new suppliers understand what was really needed on board a Porsche. He admitted that there’s still a faint hissing sound in the driveline, which needs to be rectified. And then, completely changing the topic, he said that the idea of ‘Turbo Charging’ or fast charging is no longer science fiction. Thanks to the 800-volt architecture, it’s quite possible to endow this car with 400 kilometres of range within a short span of fifteen minutes! The beauty of the system is that it also reduces the weight of the car. How? Well, by increasing the voltage, Porsche has reduced the number of amperes. More amperes mean more heat, which require bigger wires. And bigger wires mean more weight – a lot more. This means that the Mission E’s high-voltage architecture allows it to have smaller cables, which reduces the weight of the car considerably.
The Mission E has a claimed range of 500 kilometres – and, while real world range may not quite be as much, this is still an important development in the world of electric cars. And, of course, by the time the car hits production, its interior will witness tremendous modifications – but only in terms of style, for I’m quite sure that the other futuristic elements are in no danger of becoming mundane or ordinary anytime soon. Take, for instance, the Menu navigation through ‘Eye Tracking’ feature – a camera detects where the driver is looking and identifies the part of the dashboard that they want to access. Now, all the driver needs to do to access the desired menu is to press a single button. If this isn’t futuristic, then what is?
Post launch, Porsche aims to sell approximately 20,000 Taycans a year at a price that ranges between that of the Cayenne and the Panamera. And, looking at the car, this doesn’t seem an unreasonable target at all.
Stylistically, the interior is remarkably clean – as is typical of concepts. In keeping with current trends in technology, the interior is scattered with displays – there’s even one for the passenger.
With an ensured 800 volts from ‘Turbo Charging,’ the Mission E will be able to recover 80% of its range in just fifteen minutes. Currently, work is also progressing on a wireless charging option through induction – i.e. the car will be charged automatically while parked over a coil embedded in the floor, in your garage for instance.
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