Porsche’s U-Turn: Hybrid Sports Cars Coming After All
Last January, Porsche’s CEO, Michael Macht, stated that the German automaker would not offer hybrid versions of the 911 and Boxster, denying rumors to the contrary. Even though the company had already announced that it would produce a hybrid version of the new Cayenne sport utility, Macht rejected the idea of giving its sports cars a gasoline-electric powertrain. He said Porsche sports cars are not generally driven in the city, which is where a hybrid makes the most sense.
Monday, the German automaker flipped a U-turn when Porsche’s development chief, Wolfgang Duerheimer, said in an interview with trade publication Automotive News Europe, “In the future, we will have hybrid drive in every model line.” He also stated that in the future even its flagship 911 sports car will be available with hybrid drive and might only be offered with a four-cylinder engine.
The company recently launched its hybrid version of its Cayenne and next year a Panamera sedan will go on sale with the Cayenne’s hybrid technology. The Panamera hybrid will be able to travel about three to four miles under electric power according to Heinz-Jakob Neusser who heads Porsche’s drivetrain development.
In July, The Supervisory Board at Porsche gave the go-ahead on development of the 918 Spyder, the 718-horsepower all-wheel-drive plug-in hybrid sports car with a claimed 3.2-seconds 0-62 mph quickness and outstanding fuel economy. Expected as early as 2012, Porsche has stated nearly 900 potential buyers have signed up for Spyder hybrid, only 100 less than the automaker has said is needed for it to manufacture the car.
Change of Heart, With a Little Nudge
Why this change in direction? Primarily, government heat. The European Union has established a target of reducing Porsche’s CO2 emissions to 216 grams per kilometer by 2015 from 255g/km now. The company believes hybrids will help the company meet the goal.
Smaller engines are another possibility in reducing CO2 emissions. “If the CO2 guidelines require it, then our engines will become smaller and may have just four cylinders,” Duerheimer confided to Automotive News Europe.
He is considering turbocharging and direct injection that could transform a four-cylinder powerplant into a sports car engine. “The important thing is that the performance has to be right. The 911 must always be on the cutting edge.”
Another area Porsche is looking at to reduce greenhouse emissions is weight reduction. Like BMW, the automaker is developing carbon fiber car bodies. For a Porsche sports car the weight loss would be about 110 pounds and could be produced in the next five years.
Also playing a role in Porsche’s change of heart about hybrids is the takeover by Volkswagen. VW chairman Dr. Martin Winterkorn plans on expanding the Porsche model lineup in the not-too-distant future to sell 150,000 vehicles annually—double the sales they have now. This plays into Volkswagen’s ambitions to nearly triple its share in the U.S. auto market to six percent and increase sales to one million cars by 2018.
This also helps to meet another government regulation: California’s Air Resources Board has mandated that the largest carmakers by volume must together sell about 60,000 plug-in hybrids and electric cars combined from model years 2012 through 2014.