Within the next few years, not only will Porsche be rolling out more plug-in hybrid variants from their established portfolio, but it will also see the rise of their fully electric car. Spearheading this effort, both literally and metaphorically, is the Mission E - a four-door sports saloon that was shown in concept form at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show that’s due to be launched circa 2019.
It’s a large and very ambitious push by Porsche, a company known vehicles that prioritise high performance and driver focus, and a campaign that’s unfolding in concert with parent company Volkswagen own large-scale EV ambitions. Naturally, embarking upon such a direction would mean rising questions about the brand philosophies and their potential jeopardy.
While cars such as the Panamera, Cayenne, and Macan have been the first wade into the hybrid space, the Zuffenhausen automaker has so far withheld similar electrified augmentation from their dedicated sports models such as the 718 Cayman/Boxster and the signature 911 despite the flagship 918 Spyder hypercar - developed with tech developed for Porsche’s 919 Hybrid Le Mans racer car - already establishing the potential of merging hybrid power with road going high performance.
All but confirmed is the upcoming 911 having at least one variant powered in part by an electric motor working alongside its usual flat-six petrol. However, according to CEO Oliver Blume, that’s as much electrification as the 911 will ever get. He made the statement while speaking to reporters after an annual results conference in Stuttgart in early March, asserting that the rear-engine Porsche will never be fully electrified.
Blume also said that the high performance hybrid slated to make its appearance in the next-generation 992 will not be implemented upon launch, citing the need for further battery evolution - higher energy density, lighter weight, lower cell degradation - in order to fully realise an electrified 911 to the high standards its customers expect. It’s currently earmarked to debut when the 992 receives its mid-life update somewhere in 2022.
If it’s certain that Porsche will not elect to make the 911 a full EV at any stage as a matter of principal, this begs the question of how long the 911 - and a model series - has left to run. If this is a line they will not cross, could the car’s decades-long existence end when it is no longer feasible to produce or consume fossil fuels in automobiles?
The future is one void of dependence on petrol or diesel as a energy source for personal mobility, with a number of alternatives having surfaced. At any rate, as long as we have cars with driven wheels, an electric motor is the what will be used to propel them, regardless of whether the raw energy is derived from stored hydrogen (FCEV) or within batteries (BEV). With either solution, the case for a car with the unique traits of the 911’s rear-engine layout is a hard one to justify.
Due to batteries and electric motors situated much lower than any modern combustion engine could be, they will define any vehicle’s centre of gravity. Thusly, placing them anywhere other than centrally between the front and rear axle would be problematic.
This layout gives any electrically powered vehicle a handling balance similar to a present-day car with a mid-engine layout, making the 718 Cayman/Boxster the only candidate that theoretically could transition beyond internal combustion successfully, a path the 911 cannot follow by design.
In 50 years, the global supply of crude oil might have been fully depleted and there might not be any way to fuel cars with petrol. Even if that isn’t the case, it’s very likely that future legislation will prevent it from being refined and used in new cars, no matter how limited the quantity. What then?
Porsche could give a hypothetical sports car a rear-biased weight balance by placing more batteries disproportionately behind the rear axle, but that could prove a very costly option, not to mention an exercise that will be deemed unworthy to carry the hallowed name, regardless of how advanced or how faithful in imitation. To not sully the 911 lineage, perhaps it needs to perish as a martyr for a new generation of Porsche sports cars to flourish.