Porsche has no confirmed model program to develop a second battery-electric vehicle after project launches as its anti-Tesla sedan in late 2019. The smart money is betting on an SUV or a crossover arriving within a year of the four-door, 310-mile-range Mission E that was previewed with a concept (photo above) at the 2015 Frankfurt auto show. But at this year's Paris show, Porsche cautioned us that this apparently logical option is a long way from locked in as the second all-electric vehicle.
Porsche's R&D boss, Michael Steiner, admitted that the German sports-car maker is so wary of getting the second car wrong that it is waiting until the last possible moment to commit to what it might actually build. The good news is that whatever it eventually decides on will happen quickly (and it will need to, if Porsche wants it on sale when the tighter EU7 emissions laws clamp down in 2021). It could be based on either a modified Mission E architecture, a reworked platform, or anything else from the Volkswagen Group's expanding electric toolbox.
Steiner was adamant that there will be a full family of battery-electric (BEV) Porsches to go along with its growing selection of plug-in hybrids by 2021. It just wants to wait and see before betting the farm (a position that should surprise no one familiar with Porsche history).
Getting Ready for the Turning Point
"The battery-electric business will continue to grow faster, and we think the whole business will change pretty quickly at some turning point," Steiner said in an interview on the Porsche stand in Paris. He was much less sure where the business would go after that turning point, though, which is why he has convinced Porsche to hang back until it absolutely has to commit to the next car. "We should have as much knowledge as possible on the acceptance of the technology and some feedback from the customers from their experience to do the next car, before we do the next car," he said.
Don't take that as evidence that Porsche is treating the BEV market as a toe-in-the-water exercise, though. Far from it. So many engineering and development resources are being hurled at the Mission E that other logical, solid money makers have been sidelined for now. Things like a 911 hybrid, a two-door , or with a nicer engine are all on the back burner.
The Mission E is a zero-emissions machine that will hit 62 mph in less than 3.5 seconds, get to 124 mph in 12 seconds, and lap the Nürburgring's Nordschleife in less than eight minutes, and Porsche insists it will be able to do all of those feats repeatedly, even in short cycles, once the car is shoved through the same development processes as the rest of the Porsche lineup. Built around a chassis and body made from steel, aluminum, magnesium, and carbon fiber, the Mission E will feature electric motor/generators on each axle to accelerate the car and to harvest braking energy.
The motors and regeneration systems are derived from Porsche's Le Mans–winning (above) and are smaller than most, while the rest of the package includes four-wheel steering, torque vectoring, and on-demand all-wheel drive. But the Mission E has been a black hole for Porsche's engineering resources so far. The engineers were given the brief to make it completely scalable for more or less battery capacity, for taller or lower ride heights, and for longer or shorter wheelbases.
"The Mission E is as close as possible to what we saw in Frankfurt, and it will not be the only battery-driven car for us," Steiner confirmed. "It's conceptual work, and we do a lot to be prepared for anything with it. With the Mission E we are thinking, what is the second or third step? There is no reason why this has to be just one body style. It depends how the success goes. Would we add more body styles? With some modifications, it could be made into an SUV. The technology is made, so it's not complicated."
Easier Emissions Compliance Will Speed Development
Not complicated but far from locked in, because Steiner admits Porsche's BEV market analysis and assumptions might be completely off base, regardless of what Tesla customers might say and do. All of the Mission E background work has been done with one eye on giving Porsche the flexibility to jump quickly into whatever BEV segment takes off next. The aim is that all subsequent models will be cheaper and far faster to bring to market than the Mission E.
"The main issue with internal-combustion cars is not the next car or derivative, but the costs to stay legal. We have to develop for emissions and CO2, and we have to upgrade the whole engine within every vehicle to the next emissions level when it comes, and this takes some effort," he explained. "The unit costs are higher with BEVs, but the rest of the costs should be better and more cost-effective. I say 'should,' as we don't really know what we are talking about. We are on the second generation of plug-in hybrid, so we know more there, but we don't have that knowledge for BEVs."
Steiner said that early-development hardware is being tooled up now, before the company builds prototype test mules. "The Mission E's series development has started, and we are at the end of the virtual development process," he said. "We will start testing parts in cars now and, some time in the future, we'll start building real cars."