The four-door has entered the second phase of prototype production, as Porsche prepares for its first electric model
The countdown to the launch of the electric-powered Porsche Taycan has begun in earnest with officials revealing the new four-door saloon has now entered the second phase of prototype production at the company’s Zuffenhausen headquarters on the outskirts of Stuttgart in Germany.
The first in an extended line-up of electric-powered models being developed in a programme budgeted to cost up to £5.3 billion through to the end of 2022, the Taycan marks a radical departure from Porsche’s traditional line-up, bringing full-time zero local emission compatibility together with the promise of what the new car’s lead engineer, Stefan Weckbach, describes as a “typical Porsche driving experience”.
When it goes on sale in the UK following a planned public premiere at the Frankfurt motor show in September 2019, it will be positioned between the £55,965 Cayenne and £67,898 Panamera in a move that will set the scene for the introduction of other new battery-powered Porsche models, including an electric-powered mid-engined sports car in the mould of the existing Boxster and Cayman and an SUV similar in size to the recently facelifted Macan.
Autocar can confirm the Taycan, previewed by the original Mission E concept, will be offered in two distinct variants with the standard saloon depicted here in prototype guise planned for right-hand-drive delivery in Britain in early 2020 and a more ruggedly styled high-riding estate-cum-crossover model previewed by the Mission E Cross Turismo concept revealed at the Geneva motor show earlier this year scheduled to see local showrooms in 2022.
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Taycan rivals include Tesla Model S
Among the key rivals for the new Porsche is the Tesla Model S – a car used as an initial benchmark during the early phases of the Taycan’s development. However, Weckbach acknowledges the new four-door will also compete against a host of other upcoming electric car offerings, including sister company Audi’s E-tron GT as well as the recently spied Mercedes-Benz EQ S.
As evidenced by the latest prototypes fitted with production-based bodywork, the styling of the Taycan draws heavily on the well-received Mission E concept first shown at the 2015 Frankfurt motor show. Although every detail and body panel has been altered on the way to production, it remains faithful in appearance and overall visual character and detailing to the earlier concept, whose design is credited to Porsche’s former head of exterior design Mitja Borkert, now head of design at Volkswagen sister company Lamborghini.
Taking full advantage of the packaging advantages inherent in its drivetrain layout, the initial low-slung four-door saloon model combines the fundamental short-nosed proportions of traditional rear- and mid-engine Porsche models at the front together with the stretched proportions of more modern front-engine models towards the rear, providing the Taycan with clear design links to existing Porsche models, most notably the 911 and Panamera.
One major departure from the earlier Mission E is the adoption of sturdy B-pillars and four front-hinged doors in a measure aimed at increasing body rigidity. At the rear, the Taycan also receives a short notchback-style boot lid housing a full-width light band that provides access to one of two luggage compartments; the other is sited up front and is claimed to boast a near-to-100-litre capacity.
Dimensionally, the new Porsche is around 4850mm in length and 1990m in width, making it 199mm shorter but 53mm wider than the second-generation Panamera. By comparison, the Tesla Model S stretches to 4975mm in length and 1965mm in width.
More than one bodystyle due for Taycan
The initial saloon and crossover are just two bodystyles created by Porsche designers for the Taycan. Others not yet revealed to the public include two-door coupé and cabriolet proposals, the likes of which insiders at the German car maker’s headquarters say could be added to the line-up at a later date when production capacity is freed up should demand warrant it.
The basis for the Taycan is the J1 platform – a high-strength steel, aluminium and carbonfibre structure designed to house battery modules of varying sizes as low as possible within the confines of a long wheelbase. As well as being used by the new Porsche, it is also planned to underpin the upcoming Audi E-tron GT in a move aimed at increasing economies of scale.
Significantly, the new platform has been conceived exclusively as a dedicated electric vehicle architecture with Weckbach confirming it does not accept a combustion engine. It does, however, form the basis of a more versatile structure being developed in an engineering programme between Porsche and Audi called the Premium Platform Electric (PPE).
The interior of the Taycan is described as providing a typical 911 style driving position up front with adequate rear seating on two individual seats in the rear. Prototype versions sighted by Autocar at Porsche’s Zuffenhausen factory reveal the otherwise entirely flat floorpan of the J1 platform structure receives two sizeable foot wells in the rear to increase rear-seat accommodation.
Technology behind the Taycan
As hinted to by the Mission E, the Taycan is powered by an electric drivetrain with a permanent magnet synchronous motor housed within each axle in a layout that provides it with four-wheel drive capability.
Porsche chose synchronous motors against the asynchronous motors favoured by Audi due to their ability to provide strong sustained performance at high energy density levels – characteristics it says are key to the new car’s development aims.
The electric motors are similar in design to the unit employed on the petrol-electric hybrid driveline used by the Le Mans-winning 919 Hybrid, with a solenoid coil featuring rectangular rather than round wiring.
This has enabled Porsche to package the copper wires within the solenoid coil more tightly together to make the electric motors smaller than they would be using more conventional round wires. A similar solenoid design is being considered by BMW for the motors to be used by the production version of its Vision iX3 concept car due out in 2020.
In a move aimed at imbuing the Taycan with the sort of rear-biased handling traits that have characterised Porsche models through the years, the two electric motors feature varying outputs, with the unit at the rear being more powerful than the one up front. A torque vectoring function on both axles also regulates the amount of drive sent to each individual wheel.
A rear-wheel-drive version of the electric-powered Porsche, featuring a single electric motor on the rear axle, is also currently undergoing production as part of a planned 200-strong fleet of prototypes and pre-production examples of the new saloon. Sighted by Autocar on the production line in Zuffenhausen last week, word is it will be offered from the start of sales as part of a multi-tiered line-up similar to that of other Porsche models.
The channelling of drive is handled by a two-speed gearbox – a choice that also differs from the single-speed gearboxes used by most electric car rivals. It has been chosen for its ability to provide a second gear for sustained high-speed performance, which Porsche considers crucial if its new electric car is to make a mark on typical Porsche customers.
Porsche plans to offer the Taycan with a number of different power outputs in a strategy not dissimilar to that of Telsa, whose Model S comes in 75D, 100D and P100D guises. Nothing is confirmed, but officials suggest variants with up to 300kW (402bhp), 350kW (469bhp), 400kW (536bhp) and, at the top of the range, 450kW (603bhp) are being developed, although it remains to be seen whether they will all be offered for sale over the car’s planned seven-year model cycle.
In top-of-the-line four-wheel-drive 450kW guise, the new Porsche is expected to eclipse the 0-62mph of 3.5sec announced at the unveiling of the Mission E, placing the Taycan on a similar performance plane to the 911 Turbo for outright accelerative ability. Although the new car’s top speed has yet to be announced, it is claimed to be “well over 200km/h (124mph)”.
One factor Porsche is pushing heavily in the lead-up to the launch of the Taycan is its ability to provide what it describes as reproducible performance.
“Drivers won’t need to worry about throttling performance,” said Weckbach. “The Mission E will offer reproducible performance and a top speed which can be maintained for long periods.”
Electrical energy used to run the electric motors is stored in a battery that uses cells supplied by Korean company LG. The capacity of the lithium ion unit has yet to be revealed, though Porsche is sticking to earlier claims that the Taycan will possess a range of up to 311 miles.
The Porsche Taycan’s charging set-up
A retractable body element located behind the front wheel arch provides access to the charging port. Alternatively, Porsche is also working on providing its first electric-powered model with inductive charging, although it won’t be drawn on whether it will be available as an option from the start of sales.
Porsche has developed an 800V charging system for the Taycan to fulfil an early pledge that its first electric powered model will not only be fast to drive but also be fast to recharge.
“With the 800V technology, it can be recharged in just over 15 minutes for a range of around 400km, so it only takes about half as long compared to today’s systems,” said Weckbach.
As well as providing fast charging, the 800V system allows the Taycan to use a lighter and more compact wiring loom than if it had chosen a more widely used 400V system – all without any crucial safety concerns, according to Porsche. Despite this, the new four-door is still expected to tip the scales at over 2000kg.
Even so, Porsche is convinced the Taycan will bring lofty new dynamic qualities to the electric car ranks.
“The underfloor battery gives the Taycan a very low centre of gravity, even lower than with the 911. It drives like a Porsche, looks like a Porsche and feels like a Porsche; it just happens to have a different type of drive,” said Weckbach, who added that the new four-door also boasts a 50:50 front-to-rear weight distribution.
Although the new car isn’t expected to break the current Nürburgring electric car lap record currently held by the ultra-low-volume 1000kW (1341bhp) Nio EP9 at 6min 45.0sec, a good deal of recent prototype testing has taken place there as Porsche continues to engineer the Taycan to production maturity. Insiders say it should be good for a lap time at the legendary German circuit – still considered the ultimate test of any new car – of less than 8min.
As well as concentrating its engineering efforts on honing the Taycan to deliver the sort of steering feel and chassis characteristics of its more traditional combustion engine models, Weckbach said Porsche has also spent a lot of time on the programming the electric motors and brakes to deliver the response and feel it thinks buyers will expect of the car.
In a development brought over from Porsche’s more recent combustion engine models, the new saloon will use four-wheel steering as a means of balancing low-speed manoeuvrability around town and high-speed stability out on the open road.
Weckbach said: “We’ve been testing the prototypes for quite a while now. The very first vehicles, in an early phase of development, were already showing the driving characteristics you’d expect of a Porsche. They felt right at home from the beginning. And a lot has happened since then.”
Production of the Taycan is set to take place on a dedicated £617 million site established at Porsche’s Zuffenhausen manufacturing plant on the northern outskirts of Stuttgart – the same facility that has produced the 911 since 1963. Original sales estimates announced at the unveiling of the earlier Mission E concept car back in 2015 expected it to sell at around 20,000 units per year, or roughly 8% of Porsche’s total annual sales based on the 246,000 cars it sold in 2017.
Porsche confirmed production capacity for its first full electric model is set for between 20,000 and 25,000 per year on a two-shift basis, though it said volumes could be significantly increased if demand warrants it through the addition of a third shift and contingency plans that could also see the Taycan produced in other Volkswagen Group factories.