Like many manufacturers, Porsche is hedging its bets when it comes to electric sports cars. There are a few reasons for that. One, sports cars tend to be smaller than sedans and SUVs, which means there is less space for batteries. Two, the company’s sports cars — the 911, Boxster, and Cayman — are intended to be driven as Porsches have always been driven — hard. On the race track, lap after lap. On swooping back roads with plenty of switchbacks and hairpins, mile after mile.
The current state of battery technology means all electric sports cars are too porky to perform the way God and Ferdinand Porsche intended. Not only that, their range when driven con brio is too short. But the Euro 6 emissions standards are here and the Euro 7 standards are looming just over the horizon. Porsche has to do something to bring its cars into compliance or face significant fines.
Porsche CEO Oliver Blume tells Autocar that a decision has been taken to push forward with hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of the Boxster and Cayman while continuing to develop pure electric models that are expected to debut in 2022. The hybrids will have a 4-cylinder gasoline engine coupled with 48 volt electrical systems and will be built on the existing chassis. The battery models will be built on Porsche’s dedicated PPE chassis for electric cars. Only the plug-in versions will be able to operate on battery power alone. Whether the hybrids and BEVs will look the same is unknown.
“For at least two to three years we will have both. At that point, we can decide whether to upgrade the combustion engines to the new Euro 7 standard or go full electric. The pace that countries are changing is different — China wants electric now, Russia is in less of a hurry, for instance,” Blume says.
There’s a back story here, one that has implications for the entire Volkswagen Group. Range concerns have convinced Porsche to focus on the development of solid state lithium ion batteries. Porsche insiders tell Autocar that studies carried out by the parent company point to a rapid evolution of lithium ion cells for an improved energy-to-weight ratio in the next generation of batteries. Estimates are that cell energy density both by volume and by weight will increase by 25% between now and 2025.
But wait, there’s more. By 2025, the expectation is that solid state batteries will bring a further increase of 25%, allowing Porsche to pack more energy into the same space with no additional weight penalty. Keep in mind that Volkswagen has made a $100 million investment in QuantumScape, the battery startup that claims to be leading the race to perfect solid state batteries.
If Volkswagen succeeds at boosting energy density by 25% soon and an additional 25% a few years later, the EV revolution could get very interesting very quickly.