Porsche’s janitors must have spent too much time sweeping up dandruff off the floor at the Geneva motor show, because there was a whole lot of head-scratching going on. People, understandably, took a while to get their heads around a low slinky electric sports saloon, the Mission E, that was displayed instead on jacked-up suspension with off-road tyres and body cladding (above).
So let’s go back to basics and talk about the real Mission E, now called the Taycan, which goes into production in 2019. We’ve been looking into the details, and we know it will be beautiful, sleek and almost ridiculously fast. Not just down the road, but at the charge point too.
It will do 0-100kph in ‘less than 3.5 seconds’, says Porsche officially. Is that a simulation or a real figure, Top Gear asks project head Stefan Weckbach. It was a simulation when they announced the number for the show car (above) in 2015, he says, but now it’s been proved. Oh, and he emphasises the ‘less than’ part of the claim. But refuses to answer by how much it’ll be quicker.
It’ll also get to 201kph in ‘less than’ 12 seconds and have a top speed of ‘more than’ 250kph. See a pattern here?
This whole lot is brought about by a pair of powerful motors, front and rear, totalling ‘more than’ (here we go again) 600bhp. They’re the permanent magnet synchronous type, as used by Nissan and others. They’re more power-dense and temperature-stable than Tesla’s induction motors.
Porsche has also said the acceleration figure will be repeatable, time after time, as the battery goes down. Again, temperature management is critical. Weckbach says the battery uses liquid cooling, as most other EVs do.
This claim about repeatability is surely a dig at Tesla. Ludicrous Mode on a Model S means a full charge. The Porsche, like the Tesla, will also need a battery conditioning interval, though. “You can’t beat physics,” he admits. So to repeat 0-97kph in the three-second range actually means waiting several minutes in between goes, and that kinda defeats the point.
He says that the car will have multiple modes including Sport Plus that reconfigure its systems for when you want a blitz run.
To keep the acceleration strong all the way to top speed, two-speed gearboxes will be used. The 918 decouples its front motor at speed; it’s conceivable the Mission E will have a two-speed box at the back and a decoupling clutch at the front. It’s fundamentally a rear-biased car anyway, as the rear motor is more powerful than the front.
Braking is going to be pretty amazing too. Weckbach confirms it will have computer ‘blended’ braking where the pedal is effectively a request for retardation rather than a mechanical link to the discs. A computer works out whether to get that retardation from the discs or the motors.
Because the battery runs at 800 volts and can accept 350kW of charge, the regen can be super-strong. He says that at high speed it could actually invoke the rear ABS without even using the discs. And using the discs as little as possible “gives us an efficiency advantage over our competitors”.
To a Porsche lover, acceleration comes with a sweet noise (well, unless it’s a 718 Boxster or Cayman, maybe). But the Mission E won’t have an engine sound. Because no engine. Porsche R&D chief Michael Steiner says: “It needs to be low noise, but with more emotion. But not a false V8 or flat-six sound. We could synthesise that, but it would be silly. The sound will be linked to the technology.”
Fifteen minutes. That’s how long the Taycan, on the right charger, will take to get from flat to 80 per cent charged. By about 2020, there will be a network of these chargers across continental Europe, no more than 75 miles apart. They also include a contactless payment system, so as soon as you drive up they’re ready to go. Stop, wee, espresso, a few texts, get on your way.
These are the chargers of the Ionity network Porsche is investing in jointly with Mercedes, BMW, Ford and Audi. But only when plugged into a Porsche will those chargers deliver the full 800V (for 350kW) that allows such fast charging, because the Porsche has the onboard electronics and cooling that can cope.
Porsche is also putting those 350kW outlets into all its dealers, and they’ll use electricity from renewables, Porsche sales and marketing chief Detlev von Platen tells Top Gear. If there’s no 350kW outlet available, the Porsche will of course work with lower power, and take longer. It uses the Euro-standard CCS plug.
One of the epic irritations of EV charging is that you often can’t just turn up and pay on the spot. You need a special card, or some kind of pre-paid scheme membership. Von Platen says Porsche is developing a single ID card system that works with all the charging networks, and collects it all into a single monthly bill.
It’s supposed to do 500 km, or 310 miles, but that’s on the NEDC cycle. The real-world will be a lot less. Maybe 220 miles at UK motorway speed. (A Tesla Model S 100D is 632km NEDC but even Tesla says 450km at a steady 121kph). So that 80 per cent charge would be 282km. Now your route planning would have to be perfect (and your bravery gigantic) to arrive at the charge point with zero miles on the range-meter.
All EVs have that trouble, mind. And if you want to get to a destination 354km away, and then trickle-charge when you got there, well you could do it non-stop.
Weckbach says Porsche will offer over-the-air software updates. It’s also possible the company will offer owners the chance to upgrade their entire batteries when better ones become available.
Forget the raised chassis and body cladding of this year’s concept car (above). The Taycan will be sleek and low, like the very first Mission E concept from September 2015. It won’t get the clap-hands doors, though, or quite such wide hips. Because, you know, it’s not actually a concept car.
In fact, it will have pretty much the same body shell as the Cross Turismo, but on lower springs, and without the extended roof. Think of how the Panamera came as a base car and then a Sport Turismo. As Porsche design chief Michael Mauer told Top Gear: “If we do a concept and it comes to production it doesn’t look so different.”
Inside, the Cross Turismo is quite close to production. That means almost all switches are on glass touch panels. So no eating donuts in the car or your sticky jammy fingerprints will just ruin the minimalist look, darling.
Of course, the production seats will have more padding and fewer voids, because they’ll need side airbags. Carpet? There will be that, too.
The Taycan has a unique floorpan. Apart from high-performance suspension parts, one of its features is a contoured battery rather than a simple sandwich shape. It has cut-outs in the rear foot-wells, so all four people in the car will sit very low, meaning an overall height of just 1.3m.
Weight? We don’t know an exact figure, but Weckbach says the body will be built of a combination of materials – aluminium panels, magnesium castings, high-strength steel – just like the 911. And remember, the 911 somehow manages to be lighter than its pure-aluminium rivals.
Partly, that lightness will come by avoiding bloat. The Mission E is shorter than a Panamera.
Steiner also confirms that this is separate from the crossover electric platform Porsche is co-developing with Audi.
Boring financial announcements sometimes reveal interesting info. Porsche recently said that, among upcoming investments, “€500 million (£444m) will be used for the development of Mission E variants and derivatives”. At Geneva I ask von Platen about this and he says “the Mission E Cross Turismo is close to a production idea.”
I later try to clarify with Weckbach whether we’re supposed to take more seriously the jacked-up stance (the Cross bit) or the long-roofed hatchback shape (the Turismo bit). I get a simple one-word answer. “Both.”