Traditional automakers have finally begun to fight back against Tesla’s hegemony in the luxury SUV segment. Everyone from Volkswagen to Mercedes-Benz now has a luxury EV — more often, a lineup of luxury EVs — in development, each hoping to capture some of the magic Tesla first harnessed.
But perhaps the most excitement comes from Porsche and its Mission E. Yes, the company that brought you the Speedster, the 911 and, yes, the gas-guzzling Cayenne, is leading the traditional automakers’ charge into upscale EVs.
Why the excitement around the Porsche? Well, for one thing, there’s the nameplate, perhaps the most prestigious in the mainstream luxury segment. Then there’s the fact that the very first car Ferdinand Porsche designed was an EV (actually a hybrid, but there was electrical power involved). And, most importantly, there’s the brand’s reputation for technological innovation, so important in this burgeoning electric market.
We were lucky enough to be one of the first to sample the Porsche Mission E. It was a short drive, but here’s what we know so far:
The Mission E Is More Than a Car — It’s a Model Line
Launched as a concept in 2015, the 4-door coupe Mission E is already in development. Christopher Sachs, the project director, said there are already about 100 prototypes running around ahead of its 2019 introduction. What we drove was the Mission E Cross Turismo, a slightly elevated crossover loosely disguised as a concept. A Cayenne-like SUV is almost sure to follow.
The Mission E Is Fast
Porsche claims 600 PS (about 590 SAE horsepower) from the Mission E’s twin permanently excited synchronous electric motors, good enough, says Sachs, to accelerate the big EV to 62 miles per hour in under 3.5 seconds. How much under is anyone’s guess, but Porsche also says the Mission E should top out at 155 or so miles per hour, which suggests some sort of two-speed gearbox.
Though we were limited to 80 miles per hour, we can vouch for its outstanding acceleration, the Cross Turismo literally jumping with a stiff application of throttle. And, since the car we drove was a concept car, it was at least 1,000 pounds heavier than the production version will be, says Sachs. In other words, future Porsche electric vehicles will be plenty healthy.
Porsche Also Says Said Performance Is Repeatable
Eagle eyes will note that a "Ludicrous" Model S can still outgun the electric Porsche. However, unlike the much-ballyhooed Tesla, which often shuts the party down after one brief — if hellacious — burst of acceleration, Porsche says the Mission E can rattle off brisk acceleration runs until the battery runs down. No wonky thermal management here. In fact, Porsche says its electric vehicle can do an entire lap of the famed Nordschleifecircuit at full pin and still not revert to fail-safe mode. An obvious dig at Tesla — though no names were mentioned, of course — is that other, lesser EVs have a propensity to shut down proceedings when subjected to maximum warp factor.
Porsche Claims 310 Miles of Range
With a few caveats. For one thing, those 310 are Europe’s New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) estimation of the Mission E’s maximum range. NEDC ratings being notoriously optimistic, figure on something closer to 250 miles by the EPA’s reckoning, maybe 180 miles in a typical New England winter.
250 Miles of Range Can be Recharged In Only 15 Minutes
That’s thanks to a new high-voltage — 800 volts! — architecture. This long-promised 350-kilowatt charging system is dubbed, appropriately, Porsche Turbo Charging. The same caveats as above apply; the 250 miles promised are by the NEDC standard, so apply about an 80 percent fudge factor. Porsche says it’s rolling out a comprehensive charging network throughout Europe and the USA, and promises all its dealers will have at least one of these "Turbo" chargers.
That 800-volt Architecture Has Some Other Advantages As Well
For one thing, says Sachs, by almost doubling the voltage, Porsche was able to reduce the number of amperes running through the system. Amps generate heat. Heat requires thicker wires. And thicker wires weigh more and are tough to bend around body panels and dashboards etc. Raising the voltage, therefore, reduced the weight of the Mission E — it will still weigh about as much as a Cayenne — and allows a lighter, more flexible wiring loom.
There’s More Regenerative Braking
Because the battery runs at 800 volts and is able to withstand a 350 kW input, the Mission E can use even more regenerative braking (i.e. reversing the polarity of the electric motors so they act like brakes). Exactly how much regen the production Mission E will generate hasn’t been finalized, but the Porsche’s advanced battery architecture should allow more recouped energy than comparable lower-voltage systems
As to How Much the Mission E Will Cost when it comes to market in 2019, Porsche is only giving hints so far. One spokesperson said it would retail for about the same as the Panamera Hybrid — which would put the price around $100,000 — while another said it would be somewhere in between the Cayenne and the Panamera. Whatever the case, an educated guess — based on the premium the Porsche nameplate engenders in virtually every segment it competes in — would be around the $120,000 mark. But we’ll probably have to wait at least another 12 months to find out for sure.
To gain access to this information, Autotrader attended an event sponsored by the vehicle’s manufacturer.