Commentary: Provocations from IAA 2015

Porsche Mission E Concept - Photo © 2015 Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG
Porsche Mission E Concept – Photo © 2015 Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG

Honestly, I am not a fan of electric cars. Nor do I find pleasure driving hybrids, either. I have to experience both kinds of vehicles because it is my job.

I am also not a fan of Tesla Motors and of Elon Musk. He did a wonderful job founding PayPal that he should have stopped there. Then again, we have seen the likes of Musk not only in the business world, but in the automotive industry.

Then again, these are my opinions. We are entitled to them. Just like the swath of opinions regarding Rowan County (Kentucky) Clerk Kim Davis, or of all of the Presidential contenders for 2016 in the USA.

I did find some glee among the many debuts that happened in Frankfurt at IAA 2015, the annual fall auto exposition for Europe and the season opener of the major auto shows worldwide. It has nothing to do with Tesla and Musk, but it certainly had a lot to do with them.

If you live in Silicon Valley, you probably head the buzz of a cruise missile. That was launched from Stuttgart by the way of Frankfurt. It is called the Porsche Mission E Concept.

The big headline from the Porsche concept is the predicted 500-kilometer range – approximately 310 miles – in this electric vehicle. This beats the benchmark set by Tesla in creating an automobile with a 250-mile range from a full battery load to full drain. Porsche based their prediction using an 800-volt system emitting an equivalent to 600 horsepower from two permanent magnet synchronous motors. The system is engineered to go to an 80% charge in just 15 minutes using a Level 3 charger. All of this for a power source that can run a 0-100 km/h time of 3.5 seconds.

It is wrapped up in a sleek four-door body, which people had split opinions about. Yet, Porsche added other technologies to the concept's mix: all-wheel drive with torque vectoring, among several.

But, let me stop here by saying one thing: Shots fired.

Again, I am not a fan or an advocate for electric vehicular propulsion in an automobile. Yet, it is the reality we live in today. They exist for the few who own them. They make good business sense, not just for Tesla. However, fuel pump prices have dropped in the USA, which is thwarting the sales of some electric and hybrid vehicles. For example, the 2016 Chevrolet Volt is being delayed in 40 states across the country until after the start of the New Year due to what could be observed as decreased overall demand for the extended range EV.

Meanwhile, Nissan announced that the Leaf electric vehicle just got an increase in full changed range to 107 miles. This in hopes of capturing sales of those who cannot afford the privilege of owning a Tesla Model S.

All of this comes with one of the biggest challenges towards full acceptance of electric vehicles – overcoming range anxiety. The technology is improving to enable longer full charge ranges on these vehicles. However, my concern is whether the average consumer could justify an EV to drive on a daily basis. This is not a new question, mind you.

My problem with Tesla and the Mission E is based on socioeconomic class. Folks in higher income brackets can fully enjoy these vehicles because they can afford to purchase them and add a Level 2 or 3 charger to their garage at home. For Leaf, Volt and other EVs costing less than the Model S, their owners could only afford to so much to their home to maintain proper ownership and care for their vehicles. This is a caveat only to home owners with the facilities to do so.

Again, this is an old set of arguments. You read them before, heard all about the class divide when it comes to EV acceptance. However, it is a broken record – one that falls on deaf ears on Tesla, Musk…and, now, Porsche.

Which brings me to Porsche. I have become a fan of theirs recently. It took a few drives of their products over the past 16 months to convince me that Porsche is heading on the right path in expanding their lineup and working on advanced propulsion technologies. The 918 Spyder is a work of art, as well as a great testbed on developing roadworthy sustainable propulsion systems that still satisfy the enthusiast without diluting the brand's essence. It did not come as a shock when they unveiled the Mission E Concept in Frankfurt with the technology developed from endurance racing and the 919 prototype car.

However, would I be remissed if I actually saw the Mission E prototype as a preview of the next generation Panamera?

Already, the Panamera is offered in a plug-in Hybrid model. It would be a proper progression to include this fully electric version to appear in the next go-round of Porsche’s four-door flagship. However, the word from Stuttgart is to create a completely different car altogether, not a variant of a current offering. One usually looks at both the Panamera and Model S as class equals, despite differences in propulsion systems. I don't know about you, but a direct Model S slayer in Panamera clothing may be what Porsche may just have in mind all along.

That could be an EV I might get behind…

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