Porsche on a new mis­sion

2019 Lux­ury E Cross Turismo of­fers slate of ground- break­ing tech to im­prove charg­ing, re­gen brak­ing

The Expositor (Brantford) - - DRIVING - DAVID BOOTH

MALIBU, Calif. — Tesla has ba­si­cally had the lux­ury ve­hi­cle seg­ment to it­self for the last decade. Cer­tainly, for the last five years ( six ac­tu­ally, since the Model S was in­tro­duced in 2012) it has been the dom­i­nant force — hell, the only force — in the up­scale lux­ury elec­tric sedan seg­ment. The Sil­i­con Val­ley up­start has eaten the es­tab­lished mar­ques lunch, lit­er­ally em­bar­rass­ing them with both its prod­uct and its abil­ity to at­tract a fa­nat­i­cally loyal fol­low­ing in pre­ciously lit­tle time.

The tra­di­tional au­tomak­ers have fi­nally be­gun to fight back. Pretty much ev­ery quasi- lux­ury au­tomaker from Volk­swa­gen to Mercedes- Benz now has a lux­ury EV — more of­ten, a lineup of lux­ury EVs — in devel­op­ment, each hop­ing to cap­ture some of the magic Tesla has har­nessed. First out of gate will be Jaguar with its I- Pace — which our very own man­ag­ing edi­tor, Neil Vo­rano, will test in early June — a mid- lux­ury SUV de­signed from the ground up to be an elec­tric ve­hi­cle.

But per­haps the most ex­cite­ment comes from Porsche and its Mis­sion E. Yes, the com­pany that brought you the Speed­ster, 911 and, yes, the gas- guz­zling Cayenne, is lead­ing the tra­di­tional au­tomak­ers’ charge into up­scale elec­tric ve­hi­cles ( EVs).

Why the ex­cite­ment around the Porsche? Well, for one thing, there’s the name­plate, per­haps the most pres­ti­gious in the main­stream lux­ury seg­ment. Then there’s the fact that the very first car that Fer­di­nand Porsche de­signed was an EV ( ac­tu­ally a hy­brid but there was elec­tri­cal power in­volved). And, most im­por­tantly, there’s the brands rep­u­ta­tion for tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tion, so im­por­tant in this bur­geon­ing elec­tric mar­ket.

Driv­ing was lucky enough to be the first Cana­dian me­dia to sam­ple the Mis­sion E. It was a short drive but here’s what we know so far:

The Mis­sion E is more than a car; it’s a model line. Launched as a con­cept in 2015, the four- door coupe Mis­sion E is al­ready in devel­op­ment, Christo­pher Sachs, the project di­rec­tor, say­ing there are al­ready about 100 pro­to­types run­ning around ahead of its 2019 in­tro­duc­tion.

What we drove was the Mis­sion E Cross Turismo, a slightly el­e­vated cross­over loosely dis­guised as a con­cept. There will no doubt be a fully SUV’ed Cayenne- style sport brute to fol­low. Like I said, a full lineup.

While the head­lines are all about the elec­tric mo­tors, the Mis­sion E’s in­te­rior is just as revo­lu­tion­ary. Es­sen­tially, Porsche is do­ing away with all in­ter­nal but­tonry. Now, lots of man­u­fac­tur­ers are head­ing in that di­rec­tion, but the Mis­sion E, when it hits show­room some­time late next year will have but three but­tons. All are in the steer­ing wheel, all are ro­tary knobs and all three con­trol func­tions — au­dio vol­ume, a head- up dis­play of the in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem’s func­tion se­lec­tion and the var­i­ous driv­ing modes — not eas­ily touch-screened. Ev­ery thing else is, well, ac­cessed by touch­screen or voice ac­ti­vated. One 10.9- inch touch­screen, the driver’s, will be stan­dard. An­other sim­i­larly sized ver­sion — for the pas­sen­ger — will be op­tional. The en­tire gauge set is also an LCD screen. You bet­ter be pre­pared for the dig­i­tal world, be­cause it’s here.

The Mis­sion E is fast. Way fast. Porsche claims 600 PS ( about 590 horse­power) from the Mis­sion E’s twin per­ma­nently ex­cited — no Vi­a­gra jokes, please! — syn­chro­nous elec­tric mo­tors, good enough says Sachs to ac­cel­er­ate the big EV to 100 km/ h in un­der 3.5 sec­onds.

I can cer­tainly vouch for its sur­pris­ing per­for­mance, the Cross Turismo lit­er­ally jump­ing with a stiff ap­pli­ca­tion of throt­tle. And, since the car we drove was a con­cept car, it was at least 500 kilo­grams heav­ier than the pro­duc­tion ver­sion will be, says Sachs. In other words, fu­ture Porsche elec­tric ve­hi­cles will be plenty healthy.

An ob­vi­ous dig at Tesla, Porsche says its per­for­mance is re­peat­able. Ea­gle eyes will note that a “Lu­di­crous” Model S can still out­gun the elec­tric Porsche. How­ever, un­like the much- bal­ly­hooed Tesla, which of­ten shuts the party down af­ter one brief — if hel­la­cious — burst of ac­cel­er­a­tion, Porsche says the Mis­sion E can rat­tle off brisk ac­cel­er­a­tion runs un­til the bat­tery runs down. No wonky ther­mal man­age­ment here. In fact, Porsche says that their elec­tric ve­hi­cle can do an en­tire lap of the famed Nord­schi­effe cir­cuit at full pin and still not rev­ert to fail- safe mode. The si­lence left hang­ing, of course, is that other, lesser EVs have a propen­sity to shut down pro­ceed­ings when sub­jected to max­i­mum warp fac­tor.

Porsche claims some 500 km of range. Now, for a few caveats. For one thing, that’s 500 klicks ac­cord­ing to Europe’s New Euro­pean Driv­ing Cy­cle ( NEDC) reg­u­la­tions — a no­to­ri­ously op­ti­mistic fig­ure on some­thing closer to 400 kilo­me­tres by the EPA’s reck­on­ing, maybe 300 klicks in typ­i­cal Cana­dian weather. Also, Sachs re­fused to state specif­i­cally how large the bat­ter­ies are — I guess Porsche is still try­ing to re­tain some mys­tery for the launch next year — but it ap­pears that the Mis­sion E is car­ry­ing about 90 kilo­watthours of “us­able” liq­uid­cooled Lithium- ion be­neath its seats.

The com­pany also claims that 400 km of range can be recharged in about 15 min­utes. That’s thanks to a new high- volt­age — 800V! — ar­chi­tec­ture. The long- promised 350- kilo­watt charg­ing sys­tem is dubbed, you guessed it, Porsche Turbo Charg­ing. The same caveats as above ap­ply; the 400 km promised are by the NEDC stan­dard, so ap­ply about an 80 per cent fudge fac­tor. Nonethe­less, when de­liv­ered, those 350 kW charg­ing sta­tions should be the most pow­er­ful — so pow­er­ful, in fact, that the ca­bles are liq­uid- cooled — charg­ers avail­able. Porsche says it’s rolling out a com­pre­hen­sive charg­ing net­work through­out Europe and North Amer­ica and prom­ises that ev­ery Porsche dealer will have at least one of these “Turbo” charg­ers.

That 800- volt ar­chi­tec­ture has some other ad­van­tages as well. For one thing, says Sachs, by al­most dou­bling the volt­age, Porsche was able to re­duce the num­ber of am­peres run­ning through the sys­tem. Amps gen­er­ate heat. Heat re­quires thicker wires. And big­ger wires weigh more — lots more, as it turns out — and are tough to bend around body pan­els and dash­boards etc. Rais­ing the volt­age, there­fore, re­duced the weight of the Mis­sion E — it will still weigh in the 2,500 kilo­gram range — and al­lows a lighter, more flex­i­ble wiring loom.

All those volts and kilo­watts also al­low more re­gen brak­ing. Ac­cord­ing to Top Gear, be­cause the bat­tery runs at 800 V and is able to with­stand 350 kW in­put, the Mis­sion E can use even more re­gen­er­a­tive brak­ing ( i. e. re­vers­ing the po­lar­ity of the elec­tric mo­tors so they act like brakes). TG even quotes Stefan Weck­bach, vicepres­i­dent in charge of all Porsche’s BEVs ( bat­tery elec­tric ve­hi­cles), as say­ing that Porsche’s re­gen brak­ing is so pow­er­ful that the elec­tric mo­tor — now act­ing in re­verse — can ap­ply enough stop­ping force to the rear wheels to ac­ti­vate the Mis­sion E’s ABS sys­tem with­out en­gag­ing the rear discs. Pow­er­ful stuff. Whether, in fact, pro­duc­tion ver­sions will be so force­ful is not yet been de­ter­mined.

As to how much the Mis­sion E will cost when it comes to mar­ket in 2019, so far Porsche is only giv­ing hints. One spokesper­son said it would cost about the same as the Panam­era Hy­brid — which would put the price around $ 120,000. An­other said the Mis­sion’s E MSRP could range any­where be­tween the Cayenne and the Panam­era.

That could mean any­thing be­tween $ 75,000 and $ 200,000. An ed­u­cated guess, based on the pre­mium that the Porsche name­plate en­gen­ders in vir­tu­ally ev­ery seg­ment it com­petes in, would be around the $ 140,000 mark. We’ll prob­a­bly have to wait at least an­other 12 months to find out for sure.

PORSCHE

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