DRIV­ING THE PORSCHE PANAM­ERA S E-HY­BRID

HWM (Singapore) - - FEATURE -

Let’s begin by ad­dress­ing the ele­phant in the room. At over half a mil­lion dol­lars, the Panam­era S E-Hy­brid is by no means an af­ford­able ev­ery­day car. And even if you con­sider its ef­fi­ciency, there is no way the Panam­era S E-Hy­brid is go­ing to be more cost-ef­fec­tive than an af­ford­able model from a Ja­panese or Korean make. That said, the Panam­era S E-Hy­brid was the first plug-in hy­brid to reach our shores and has one of the best hy­brid driv­e­trains in the mar­ket to­day. Hence, it is a good start­ing point for us to get a taste of hy­brid tech­nol­ogy.

The Panam­era S E-Hy­brid is pow­ered by a com­bi­na­tion of a tra­di­tional in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gine and an elec­tric mo­tor. The in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gine is an Audi-de­rived su­per­charged 3-liter V6 that churns out 333hp, whereas the elec­tric mo­tor pro­duces 70 kilo­watt or around 95hp. to­gether, the car has a com­bined power out­put of 416hp and 590nm of torque. That’s a re­spectable amount of grunt, suf­fi­cient to haul the car from 0 to 100km/h in just 5.5 sec­onds. So, de­spite the eco-friendly po­si­tion­ing of the Panam­era S E-Hy­brid, this car is still a prop­erly fast Porsche.

The Panam­era S E-Hy­brid has three driv­ing modes: E-Power, E-Charge and Sport. E-Power is the de­fault set­ting that the car starts in; and in this mode, the car is pow­ered mostly by the elec­tric mo­tor and the in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gine only comes on when ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary. To avoid driv­ers un­in­ten­tion­ally sum­mon­ing the su­per­charged 3-liter V6, an ar­ti­fi­cial step is added to the ac­cel­er­a­tor in this mode and the en­gine only comes on when driv­ers press be­yond this point. As a re­sult, the Panam­era S E-Hy­brid starts silently and this was slightly dis­con­cert­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for us since we were ex­pect­ing to hear the rum­ble of the V6 when we started the car. Sur­pris­ingly, de­spite the Panam­era S E-Hy­brid weigh­ing over 2 tons, the elec­tric mo­tor never felt in­suf­fi­cient or un­der­pow­ered, though over­tak­ing can be a lit­tle tricky. That said, it ac­cel­er­ates briskly enough and can even reach a max­i­mum top speed of 135km/h on elec­tric power alone.

More im­pres­sive, how­ever, is its range. Porsche claims a max­i­mum range of 36km is pos­si­ble on a fully charged bat­tery and we do not doubt it. Even on a half-full bat­tery, we eas­ily man­aged 20km. This is made pos­si­ble by the ef­fi­ciency in which the car re­cov­ers en­ergy dur­ing nor­mal driv­ing. For in­stance, en­ergy is re­cov­ered when­ever the brakes are ap­plied and also when­ever the car goes into coast­ing mode, the in­stances where the car is “glid­ing” with­out any mo­tive force.

The E-Charge mode is, as its name sug­gests, the mode to use if you want to charge the bat­ter­ies. In this mode, ex­cess en­ergy from the in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gine is used to charge the bat­tery. To­gether with the en­ergy re­cov­ered dur­ing brak­ing and coast­ing, the bat­tery charges sig­nif­i­cantly quicker. In our ex­pe­ri­ence, we man­aged to get the bat­tery up to around 40% charge af­ter about 30km.

Sport mode is the set­ting you want to be in to ex­pe­ri­ence the full fury of the hy­brid driv­e­train. In this mode, full per­for­mance, from both the su­per­charged 3-liter V6 and the elec­tric mo­tor, is avail­able at any time. To­gether, the en­gine and the elec­tric mo­tor pro­duce a whop­ping 590nm and this can be eas­ily ap­pre­ci­ated when­ever you dig your right foot deeper into the car­pet. The im­me­di­acy of the elec­tric mo­tor helps fills out the torque gaps nicely and it is quite im­pres­sive to see a car as large and heavy as the Panam­era S E-Hy­brid surge for­ward with such ur­gency. And with the var­i­ous sus­pen­sion set­tings, one can re­ally tune to the Panam­era S E-Hy­brid to feel and drive like a bona fide sports car, de­spite its eco-friendly po­si­tion­ing and im­mense mass.

“De­spite the ecofriendly po­si­tion­ing of the Panam­era S E-Hy­brid, this car is still a prop­erly fast Porsche.”

The Long-term Viability of Plug-in Hy­brids

Plug-in hy­brids pro­fess to of­fer the best of both worlds - the con­ve­nience of a tra­di­tional in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gine cars and the eco-friend­li­ness of ful­l­elec­tric cars. Af­ter spend­ing a day with the Panam­era S E-Hy­brid, we are con­vinced of this claim.

For short com­mutes, it is pos­si­ble for the Panam­era S E-Hy­brid to drive solely us­ing elec­tric power. This makes it ex­cel­lent for city driv­ing or in a small coun­try like ours. And when you are done, the Panam­era S E-Hy­brid can be plugged in, charged and ready to go the next day. So if used in such a man­ner, the Panam­era S E-Hy­brid func­tions al­most like an elec­tric car, and its in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gine is only called upon for longer dis­tance com­mutes or when the driver needs more power for over­tak­ing ma­neu­vers. And even if your daily com­mutes are longer than the elec­tric range, the hy­brid driv­e­train does a good job of ex­tend­ing the over­all range of the car and its en­ergy re­cov­ery sys­tems are use­ful in re­cy­cling en­ergy that would oth­er­wise have been wasted.

How­ever, the big­gest hur­dle for plug-in hy­brids is the charg­ing sta­tion. Porsche Sin­ga­pore ad­mits that the unique sell­ing point of this car can only be re­al­ized if the driver has his own prop­erty so that the spe­cial Porsche charg­ing sta­tion can be in­stalled and used to charge the car. This predica­ment extends to all hy­brid cars and not just the Panam­era S E-Hy­brid. Hence, sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ment needs to be made by gov­ern­ments to in­stall charg­ing sta­tions in public and hous­ing es­tates to fully ap­pre­ci­ate the po­ten­tial of plug-in hy­brids. To com­pli­cate mat­ters, there are also dif­fer­ences be­tween the charg­ing ca­bles used for hy­brids - Euro­pean and Ja­panese makes re­quires ca­bles with dif­fer­ent con­nec­tors.

The mar­ket for cars in Sin­ga­pore has al­ways been an un­usual one be­cause of the unique poli­cies that we have sur­round­ing car own­er­ship. So while plug-in hy­brids are touted as more ef­fi­cient and cheaper to run, the re­al­ity is that the buy­ers who are usu­ally in the mar­ket for such cars do not have ac­cess to a charg­ing sta­tion nor can they in­stall one as they please. As a re­sult, plug-in hy­brids, in Sin­ga­pore at least, is re­ally only vi­able for folks stay­ing on landed prop­erty that can al­low for the easy in­stal­la­tion of charg­ing docks.

In sum­mary, plug-in hy­brids, like any other cars that rely on al­ter­na­tive forms of fuel such as LPG, can only be vi­able if they re­ceive the nec­es­sary in­fra­struc­ture and sup­port from the gov­ern­ment. How­ever, with car mak­ers ex­plor­ing other forms of al­ter­na­tive fu­els such as hy­dro­gen, it re­mains to be seen if the gov­ern­ment would be will­ing to in­vest in the in­fra­struc­ture re­quired for the wide­spread adop­tion of both hy­brid and full-elec­tric cars.

HWM

HWM

The charg­ing dock charges the car in just 4 hours.

The in­te­rior is a plethora of but­tons and switches.

The rear seats fold for even more boot space.

The Panam­era S E-Hy­brid can be iden­ti­fied by its acid green brake calipers.

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