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Porsche Tests Electric Boxster

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author photo by Autotrader May 2011

It's only a prototype, but the Porsche Boxster E looks pretty darn intriguing. This is an all-electric, all-wheel-drive version of Porsche's "entry level" two-seater convertible. Unveiled recently at a sustainable mobility event in Berlin, test drivers agreed with the company's claim that the Boxster E "remains a genuine Porsche in terms of driving dynamics."

It turns out that the Boxster is an ideal platform for experimentation. Its relatively low weight and advantageous aerodynamic shape are plus points whether propelled by electricity or gasoline; these qualities help make the energy go further. The Boxster E has two electric motors, one to drive the front wheels, plus another out back to turn the rears. The battery – employing lithium iron phosphate technology, a departure from the contemporary standard of lithium-ion – goes just behind the seats, where the gasoline engine usually sits in the Boxster.

This arrangement not only retains the car's excellent weight balance (crucial for the driving experience), but it also manages to house high-voltage components in a way that keeps them protected in the event of a crash. The motor at the front replaces a now-redundant fuel tank. The Boxster normally has two handy luggage spaces: one under the hood, the other a conventional trunk. Only the front luggage space is reduced in this new guise.

Power output from both motors adds up to 180 kilowatts or 241 horsepower, plus 393 pound-feet of torque. That's less horsepower than a Boxster S (which has 310 hp), but 127 lb-ft more torque. And torque equals acceleration. Porsche claims the two cars are very similar in their behavior. It's just that the E makes almost no noise when it sprints from a standstill to 60 mph in a sprightly 5.5 seconds (just half a second slower than the S). Porsche engineers have developed what they call an Active Sound Design system, so nearby pedestrians can be alerted. The E has a lower maximum speed – 124 mph compared with 170 mph in the S – but that would mostly be relevant on a track.

Because of its rich racing heritage, the instrument panel in Porsche sports cars is usually dominated by a large tachometer. Not this one. In its place is an E-Power meter. On the steering wheel is a button that turns the electric motors into generators for the battery, creating a form of engine braking (useful for downhill stretches).

Range is around 107 miles and full recharge time is about nine hours using a conventional power outlet. A higher-voltage, rapid-charge station would obviously cut the wait appreciably.

Porsche also took two other rear-drive-only versions to Berlin, each with one electric motor. All three are being used "to explore the everyday practicality of all-electric vehicles and how they are used," said Porsche. "Especially in terms of driving and battery charging." The company also said it is looking at where to go next with its Porsche Intelligent Performance program which already includes the 911 GT3 R Hybrid and the spectacular 918 Spyder, a hybrid supercar that sells for $845,000. If a Boxster E model ever goes into production, it should be much cheaper than that.

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Porsche Tests Electric Boxster - Autotrader