Customers have begun ordering the Porsche Taycan, the firm’s first all-electric vehicle, despite the production version of the car not even being revealed yet, UK managing director Alexander Pollich has said.
Order books opened earlier this month, with Pollich confirming that customers were keen to reserve early cars despite the car only being revealed as a concept - called Mission E. He did not confirm order numbers, however. The production car is expected to be revealed for the first time in 2019, ahead of hitting roads in 2020.
“The reaction from customers has been fantastic - from the moment we announced the car to now, when we have asked customers to register their interest for the first cars,” said Pollich of the Tesla Model S rival. “The history of Porsche began with an electric car in 1898 and that provides some inspiration and motivation for us. Of course there was a big gap, but we have led with the introduction of hybrids and now we will use our heritage and learnings to offer a class-leading electric car.
“The next 18 months will be fascinating, as we develop and reveal the car, but what is already clear is that customers are keen. They are talking to our dealers asking how to get to the top of the priority lists and asking to access more information.”
Pollich acknowledged rival Tesla’s importance in moving the market, saying: “They have been the pioneers and they have set a big challenge. What’s clear is that at Porsche we are planning to rise to that challenge, not just with our car, but in providing owners with the full 360 degree view to allow seamless ownership, including creating a supercharger network.”
Porsche is a partner with the BMW Group, Daimler AG, Ford and the Volkswagen Group in a scheme to develop a high-powered charging network in Europe, called Ionity, that will be usable by all their respective electric vehicles. The car makers have pledged to install 400 chargers across Europe by 2020, and the scheme is expected to work in a way that Tesla’s unique Supercharger network does now. Each charger will initially have a capacity of up to 350kW.
Porsche Taycan’s radical new architecture
Development for the Taycan is headed by Stefan Weckbach, who previously led product strategy and more recently was responsible for the development of the Boxster.
The Taycan's four-seat interior suggests it will be more closely aligned, in terms of character, with the Panamera than pure sports cars such as the 911. But its floor-mounted batteries should give it an extremely low centre of gravity to allow for hunkered-down handling that's comparable to more focused performance machines.
The Taycan sits on a new architecture, named J1 by Porsche. The brand's first EV will feature 800V charging technology that is intended to future-proof the car for several years after it hits the market, and company officials have already confirmed it is designed to enable fast-charging to 80 percent of the car’s range in just 15 minutes.
The J1 structure is one of three new electric car platforms being developed within Porsche's parent company, the Volkswagen Group. It is described as being different in construction to the C-BEV platform planned to underpin sister brand Audi’s forthcoming E-tron SUV, which is due for reveal later this year.
Porsche chairman Oliver Blume told Autocar: “The J1 has a low floor, while the C-BEV is constructed differently with a higher floor that suits an SUV.” Despite the differences in construction, Blume also confirmed that production versions of the Taycan and E-tron will feature similar lithium ion battery technology.
The central location of the batteries and twin-motor set-up will also give the Taycan's technical architecture a better front-rear weight balance than combustion-engined cars, potentially allowing Porsche's engineers to soften the car's anti-roll bars to aid ride without hindering handling.
Porsche Taycan testing, autonomy and over-the-air updates
Blume also confirmed that Porsche plans for the Taycan to have level four autonomous driving technology (self-driving in nearly all situations, with driver attention not required), but denied that it would allow fully autonomous driving over longer distances. “There are situations in traffic jams where you will be able to read a newspaper, but our customers take pleasure from driving and this will remain,” he said.
Additionally, Porsche is working on providing the Taycan with software that will allow over-the-air updates such as those pioneered by Tesla with the Model S. “It will be possible to work with over-the-air options,” added Blume. “It isn’t decided yet, but it could be possible to charge up with more power. For example, when you have 400bhp, it could be possible to upgrade to 450bhp."
Blume’s comments suggest that Porsche is planning the Taycan as a line-up of models with differing performance levels, similar to the strategy undertaken with its current 718 Boxster/Cayman, 911, Panamera, Macan and Cayenne ranges. The brand is using the Taycan to spearhead its growing investment, which has totalled £5.3 billion for EV technology. Part of this money has helped to develop a plug-in hybrid version of the next-generation 911.
The most recently photographed test car was being towed by a Cayenne. Breakdowns are common during early phases of testing. Some of the spotted cars have been wearing exhaust exit surrounds that were fake and fitted to conceal the car's identity. A panel of autonomous sensors has also been seen in the car's nose, nestled between what appear to be two sets of louvres in the lower grille. These can likely be opened to allow battery and brake cooling.
The name Taycan translates loosely as "lively, young horse" from a Eurasian dialect - a nod to Porsche’s insignia, which has featured a leaping horse since 1952.
First Porsche Taycan performance details revealed by Mark Webber
Further confirmed details for the car are scarce. Former Formula 1 driver and 2015 World Endurance Champion Mark Webber has been seen driving the Taycan around the brand's Weissach test track for an official video, in which he stated that the car is a "game-changer".
Webber also revealed the Taycan has "600hp", which equates to 592bhp, confirming speculation that its lithium ion battery pack-powered dual electric motor architecture will rank the car second only to the 911 GT2 RS for power output in the current Porsche range.
This output should give the car, which Webber admits is "heavier" than a standard Porsche due to its electric powertrain, a 0-62mph time of around 3.5sec. It is expected to have a range of at least 300 miles.
Porsche revealed a more rugged version of the Taycan at theGeneva motor show. The Mission E Cross Turismo concept is based on the same platform but raises the ride height and adds an estate body. This version is expected to arrive on roads in 2021.
Additonal reporting by Greg Kable.