Porsche on a new mission
2019 Luxury E Cross Turismo offers slate of ground- breaking tech to improve charging, regen braking
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.