Cars with Jan Coomans. Porsche and the electric force

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Cars with Jan Coomans. Porsche and the electric force

Regardless of who’s to blame, it appears that most electrified cars haven’t exactly made the hearts of car enthusiasts beat any faster. Or when they have, it may have been out of frustration rather than outright joy. But Porsche, an enthusiast company pur sang, is doing its best to force us to reconsider our possibly hasty conclusions. Could electricity actually make cars better?

Sure, we’ve all seen the videos about electric family cars demolishing traditional supercars in races from a standstill. Electric motors are undeniably better than combustion engines when you want huge amounts of torque instantly. But a faster car isn’t always a better or more exciting car — if it was a matter simply establishing which car is the fastest then car reviews would be single paragraph affairs. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I like speed and acceleration as much as the next guy. I like sugar, too. I just prefer it to be in the shape of something like a nice apple pie rather than consuming it straight out of the pack with a big spoon. At the other end of the spectrum, small hybrid cars like the Toyota Prius never set the automotive community alight with excitement either.

It’s an emotive issue, as well as an emotional one. There are those who would rather perish in a crash (complete with the spectacular gasoline-fueled fireball) than to buy an electric car, but there are also folks who think anyone who is still driving a car with a combustion engine is simply backwards and unlettered. But let’s aim for the golden middle here and get back on topic. If you’re the type of person who likes to spend a bit of time on Wikipedia, you might’ve heard of the Lohner-Porsche mixed hybrid. It was technically the first hybrid car and it was developed by Ferdinand Porsche in the early 1900s before he went on to do various other things such as creating the second best-selling car of all time for Volkswagen and starting the Porsche car company. He was a busy man, it’s true. Anyway, it’s all very fascinating, especially to history buffs, but it’d be a bit of a stretch that this “head start” in designing hybrid cars carries much weight today. It wouldn’t be until 2011 that Porsche as we know it would actually sell an electrified car — the Panamera S Hybrid — and technology had moved on quite a bit by then.

The beauty of a hybrid powertrain, which combines a traditional combustion engine with electric power, is that it’s possible for these dual drivetrains to cancel out each other’s downsides. The biggest downside to an electric motor is that in order to be of any use it requires a battery which is big, heavy and expensive. The downside of a combustion engine is that it’s dirty and needs time to build up sufficient RPMs before it can deliver most of its power. A Hybrid car’s electric powertrain allows it to drive with zero local emissions while on electric power — very handy in a city and in traffic jams for example. And when you want to go fast, it also has the instant torque response that is lacking from a regular engine. Combine the two and you’ve got a car that has unlimited range (as long as you can find a fuel station, obviously) but with reduced emissions (thanks to its ability to charge its batteries with recovered energy during braking) and improved performance as well.

Of course, while the first hybrid powertrain in the Panamera and later the Cayenne were quite impressive and popular options in countries where there were fiscal benefits to be had, they still might not have convinced the most diehard Porsche fans that the power of electricity was worth harnessing for performance reasons. But if what they needed was an eye opener, then Porsche would provide exactly that with the 918 Spyder. Yes, it was a hypercar and yes it cost pretty much a million dollars. But it showed the world what hybrid technology was actually capable of. It went up against the LaFerrari and McLaren P1 (which were also hybrids) and came out on top a lot more often than not despite being both heavier and slightly down on power. But then all had jaw dropping horsepower figures that started with either an 8 or a 9 so none of the three were anything less than bonkers fast anyway. What seemed to give the 918 Spyder the edge was Porsche’s decision to not only make it all-wheel-drive but also to use a higher percentage of electric power than the McLaren and Ferrari. The electric power is immediate and can be controlled very accurately by computers to send it to whichever side of the car needs it the most.

Many lap records were broken — smashed actually — but beyond the impressive figures the 918 was also a remarkably civilized car on the road. And being a Spyder, you could even take the roof off! I would argue that this model single handedly woke up enthusiasts to the fact that this whole electricity thing could work out well for them after all. Porsche then went racing in the world endurance championship with the 919 Hybrid prototype and won everything that there was to be won including the famous Le Mans. Several times in fact. Though they finally retired the car from racing at the end of the 2017 season in order to focus on development for Formula E, they still went ahead and modified it as the 919 Evo just to show the world what a hybrid car was capable of once you removed the limitations that were set by the WEC rulebook. More power, more downforce, and lap times which often beat the track records set by Formula One cars! Read more: https://christophorus.porsche.com.

Now in Formula E, Porsche find themselves up against competitors who already have a couple of seasons under their belts. But motorsport is so deeply engrained in the company’s DNA that good results aren’t optional. They are expected, though perhaps not as early as the first race. Having braced themselves for a tough start in an altogether new sport, Porsche surprised everyone including themselves when they took second place in the opening race of the new season with Andre Lotterer who drives for their works team together with Neel Jani in a second car. There’s still no doubt that it will take some time for Porsche to find their feet in this new category, but they could hardly have wished for a better start.

Andre Lotterer
Neel Jani

It’s also matter of when rather than if Porsche’s flagship production model, the 911, gets a hybrid drivetrain. After all, the PDK transmission in the latest 992 generation car has been specifically designed to leave space for an electric motor should Porsche choose to implement it in the 992.2 or whichever number comes after it. Knowing Porsche, anything that they add to the 911 will be making it better and faster or else they wouldn’t be using it. Given what they managed to do with the 918 several years ago, whatever hybrid system they end up using in their most cherished car will undoubtedly be pretty spectacular. Still, while Porsche takes all the hybrids under its E-Mobility banner very seriously, they’ve set their sights on fully electric cars as well.

Enter the Taycan. I’ve rarely seen a car launch this big for any car, but then perhaps the Taycan is the Porsche model to define the new decennium. As the company’s first EV, its goal was to make waves first of all. I think it’s fair to say that they succeeded. Straight out of the box the Taycan Turbo S was matching (or even beating) the fastest Teslas that were on sale, while also being able to charge faster and offering an undeniably more luxury experience. Though, like I said at the start, I would caution against putting too much weight on outright performance figures. I understand that Porsche felt that had to provide the same kind of stupendous acceleration that was already on offer by the competition, but let’s face it: whether you accelerate from a full stop to 100 km/h in 2.3 seconds or 2.5 shouldn’t keep you awake at night. In both cases your eyeballs will feel like they’re in danger of ending up in your ears and the vast majority of normal people would cry for mercy if you even tap half of a Taycan’s power potential. But hey, at least it gives the fanboys on YouTube something to argue about.

As with anything, the beginning is the part that matters the most. Having set out the direction to electrify the entire model range, Porsche have put a lot on the line to make this work and it has taken a huge amount of work and development to get to the point where electric power is becoming a force that can’t be ignored. Whether it’s racing or building road cars, Porsche have never settled for anything less than to be on top and make things the best they can possibly be. Knowing that, those of us with gasoline running through our veins have very little to worry about.


28 февраля 2020
Jan Coomans для раздела Авто