Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 November 2019

Taycan Turbo: Porsche reveals the world's first mass-market electric sports car

The car was unveiled at a live-streamed event that spanned three continents

Porsche has entered the world of electric vehicles with the release of the 260-kilometres-an-hour Taycan. It also marks the arrival of the world’s first mass-market electric sports car, which was revealed on Wednesday at a no-expenses-spared event that spanned three continents, linked and live streamed as one giant reveal.

Oliver Blume, chairman of Porsche’s executive board, whipped the covers off the four-door Taycan in a former East German Air Force hangar that’s been converted to a solar farm. While he did this in Berlin, fellow board members continued the sustainability theme, performing similar duties at Niagara Falls in Canada and on a wind farm in the Fujian province of China.

“This day marks the start of a new era,” Blume announced. “We promised a Porsche for the age of electromobility and now we are delivering on this ­promise.” He was referencing a commitment made four years ago when the German car brand made global headlines with the Mission-E electric concept sports car that has ­morphed with minimal change into the production-ready Taycan.

Oddly, the performance versions of Taycan are called the Turbo and Turbo S – despite the lack of turbos – as the company believes in continuity across its entire fleet to easily identify the faster versions. The Turbo S develops 751 brake horsepower compared to 671bhp for the Turbo and they accelerate to 100kph in 2.8 and 3.2 seconds respectively. The Turbo S then claims a range of 412km with 450km available from the Turbo. Less powerful variants will follow later, but Porsche has already announced the first derivative, which will be the Taycan Cross Turismo, due before the end of next year.

“Our plan is to have at least 50 per cent of our model range electric by 2025, which may be even as high as 60 per cent in order to meet the legal FIA emission requirements,” said Lutz Meschke, deputy chairman and member of the executive board in finance and IT. “The next phase will be the electrification of our SUV models, starting with Macan in 2022, which will use a new platform shared with Audi and should save at least 30 per cent in development costs.”

There were some ­intense discussions because we needed to enforce this low look and, thanks to the pressure, we came up with some intelligent solutions

Michael Mauer, chief designer at Porsche

Being first to market with a low-slung EV sports car has been a top priority for the company for nearly half a decade. “It was very important that we could meet the expectations of our customers in terms of both performance and range,” Meschke said.

Porsche recently conducted a series of tests that involved the car being subjected to 30 Launch Control starts from zero to 200kph and back to zero on the single charge. The Taycan is the first production vehicle with a system voltage of 800 volts as opposed to 350 and 375 offered by Tesla, which is expected to dramatically reduce recharging time. The Turbo and Turbo S are powered by two electric motors with one mounted inside each axle, effectively making them all-wheel drive.

The electric motors, transmission and pulse-controlled inverter are each combined into a compact drive module, which are claimed to have the highest power density (kW per litre of package space) of all electric powertrains on the market. A two-speed transmission installed on the rear axle is an innovative addition not seen on other EVs. It has a virtual first gear that offers maximum power for standing start accelerations, while the second gear uses a longer ratio to ensure high efficiency and equally high power reserves at high speeds.

Porsche claims that, in just overover five minutes, the battery can be recharged using direct current from the high-power charging network for a range of up to 100km. The charging time for 5 to 80 per cent state of charge is 22.5 minutes under ideal conditions and the maximum charging power is 270kW.

An issue most manufacturers are finding is that a skateboard-like chassis where batteries fill the full length of the floor tends to make the car sit tall. This is the enemy of Porsche’s design philosophy. Michael Mauer, chief designer at Porsche, says, “being Porsche, our cars have to be low, so this provided some real challenges when it came to packaging and proportion”. But the team managed to keep the centre of gravity lower in the Taycan than in the 911 coupe. “There were some ­intense discussions because we needed to enforce this low look and, thanks to the pressure, we came up with some intelligent solutions.”

Meanwhile, the cockpit features new architecture, including a free-standing instrument cluster first seen in the 918 Spyder prototype, but has been complemented with the latest curved instrument cluster. A central, 10.9-inch infotainment display and an optional passenger display are combined to form an integrated glass band. Conventional switches have ­disappeared and been replaced with a touchscreen operation using haptic feedback via pulses through the fingers. “We tried to create a very futuristic, clean interior with no switches and a seamlessly integrated centre console display and passenger display,” Mauer explains.

Externally, designers needed to emphasise that this is a ground-up new model without diluting Porsche’s DNA. Wide haunches over the rear wheels, raised front guards bookending a sloping front bonnet and a full width rear tail light are just a few of the features carried over from other models in the Porsche family. “Some manufacturers tried to change everything because they want to detach their new EV product from their traditional range, while others wanted to not change anything and only identify the EV with a badge,” says Mauer. “We needed to go down the middle so that Taycan was instantly identifiable as a Porsche but equally recognisable as an EV and a new Taycan.”

The Porsche Taycan was revealed on Wednesday September 4, 2019, at a solar farm in Germany, the Niagara Falls in Canada and on a wind farm in the Fujian Provence of China. Courtesy Porsche
The Porsche Taycan was revealed on Wednesday September 4, 2019, at a solar farm in Germany, the Niagara Falls in Canada and on a wind farm in the Fujian Provence of China. Courtesy Porsche

Driving impressions will have to wait a few weeks, but, at the launch event, former Porsche LeMans driver and Formula One racer Mark Webber was on hand to offer his verdict, as he has contributed to many of the car’s development miles. “Every time I’ve driven the car, it’s been on the racetrack and I’ve driven it extremely hard as that’s been my brief,” said the two-time winner of the Monaco Grand Prix.

“As with all electric cars, it’s carrying more weight, so you do whatever you can to get that weight low and they’ve nailed it. Because there’s little weight over the nose due to the fact there’s no engine in the front, you can play with the power when you turn it into a corner.”

With 30,000 confirmed pre-orders, Porsche has had to increase capacity to meet the initial demand for Europe and North America. This has pushed the Middle East allocation back towards later next year and, as a result, full prices won’t be announced for the region until the first half of 2020. Perhaps it’s time to start saving those dirhams.

Updated: September 5, 2019 03:34 PM

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