Porsche is not a “me too” kind of company. Everything it does is usually years ahead of the competition and completely unique. The company built its reputation on rear engine sports cars at a time when every other car on track had its engine up front. The Porsche 911 sports cars of today still take their styling cues from the first 911 introduced in 1963.
As the world becomes more involved with electric cars, everyone wants to know how other car companies will compete with the Tesla Model S. Every other story in the automotive press is about some new “Tesla fighter.” At the Frankfurt auto show this week, Porsche has unveiled its answer – the Porsche Mission E, an all electric 4 door, 4 passenger sports car that looks like a Porsche 911 from the future. It is not a Tesla fighter. Rather, it establishes a whole new category. There is nothing else quite like the Mission E in the world of automobiles.
“We always said that when we do an electric car, it would be a true sports car. We also said it would offer the performance traditional Porsche buyers demand,” said Wolfgang Hatz, head of research and development, at the unveiling in Frankfurt. He added “We have achieved both goals, while providing it with everyday practicality and an exceptional range.”
One thing Tesla has taught us is that an electric car needs the battery located as low as possible in the chassis. Batteries are heavy and if that weight is carried high above the ground, handling suffers. The floor of the Mission E is constructed of high strength steel and carbon fiber, bonded together the way Porsche learned to do it when it built the 918 Spyder. The battery for the Mission E rides just above the floor and gives the car 331 miles of range in the European test cycle.
There are two electric motors – one in front and one in the rear – totaling about 600 horsepower. The rear motor does most of the work in normal driving. The front motor is called upon only for maximum acceleration or when the road surface is slippery. In that way, the Mission E has driving characteristics similar to the 911. Stomp on the accelerator and the car surges to 62 kph in just 3.5 seconds – identical to the Tesla P85D. Although the Tesla has more horsepower, the Porsche weighs nearly a half a ton less at 4,400 lbs.
The Porsche Mission E breaks important new ground for an electric car. It employs an 800 volt charging system that can give its an 80% charge in just 15 minutes. No other manufacturer has anything like it. It also uses a curved holographic instrument display that mimics the classic 5 dial instrument panel introduced on the first 911. It is controlled by hand gestures but that’s not the end of its wizardry. A tiny camera tracks the driver’s eyes. Look at the speedometer and that instrument separates from the rest of the display and presents itself more prominently directly in the driver’s line of sight.
The look of the Mission E is just amazing. Its carefully shaped and chiseled body combines the classic look of the 911 at the front with the grace of the Panamera at the rear. In between, the car beckons drivers and passengers alike to climb aboard through the clam shell doors.
Hatz proclaims the Mission E is designed to give extraordinary performance on demand and whenever asked for. “There is no dramatic drop off in accelerative ability like there is with existing electric cars. Our driveline can reproduce the claimed performance over and over and over,” he said. The car can also run at its 155 mph top speed for extended periods, just the way a Porsche should, thanks to a liquid cooling system perfected for the Le Mans winning Porsche 919.