While Out of Reach, Porsche Hybrids Highlight Green Strategies

The Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid, a $68,000 gas-electric SUV, will not be a big seller. Like other luxury hybrid SUVs from BMW and Cadillac, the Cayenne Hybrid is more of a platform for technology experimentation—rather than a whole-hearted effort to reinvent hybrids for high living. The Cayenne S Hybrid, Porsche’s first full hybrid, will go on sale in a few months.

If only a handful of well-heeled buyers will fork over the dollars for the Cayenne S Hybrid, then why should folks interested in hybrids—as a means to cut emissions and reduce use of petroleum—care about this vehicle?

Light and Fast

First, Porsche’s willingness to shift down in vehicle weight is noteworthy. Porsche reduced the weight of the Cayenne Hybrid by about 400 pounds by using a lighter all-wheel-drive system rather than a 4×4 drivetrain. In addition, Porsche designers replaced heavier steel elements with more aluminum in the vehicle body. The weight trimming still leaves the hybrid nearly 500 pounds heavier than the gas-powered Cayenne V6, but it points to the industry’s trend toward using advanced materials and forgoing features to reduce weight across all segments of vehicles. These measures are cost-effective strategies for improving fuel efficiency—even if it doesn’t result in immediate cost savings for Porsche consumers. The Cayenne S Hybrid is about $20,000 more than the gas-powered V6 Cayenne.

The other trend that green car fans should acknowledge is the use of hybrid and plug-in technology in the high-performance segment. We’ve written quite a bit about green high-tech in motorsports—perhaps best illustrated by Porsche’s own 480-horsepower 911 GT3 R Hybrid.

Porsche took green speed even further when the company last month decided to put the 718-horsepower 918 Spyder plug-in hybrid supercar into production. The Porsche 918 Spyder is capable of 0-60 mph in about 3 seconds and a top speed of 198 mph. And it will cost approximately $650,000.

Okay, that’s a bit over-the-top, but the 918 Spyder makes no pretense of being anything other than a slick promo for Porsche’s engineering and design prowess. The same thing, to a lesser degree, holds true for the Cayenne S Hybrid. But isn’t better to have Porsche playing with full hybrid technology, plug-in systems, and light-weighting, rather than entirely ignoring these fuel efficient technologies?

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  • veek

    Sorry, Porsche can spin this all they want, and brag about the supposed engineering prowess of their patented Stuttgarter Globalwarmer Platform System, and their attempts to introduce greenery into the sub-20-mpg class, and how the low volume of these vehicles will not contribute all that much to extra global climate change, and how purchasers of these cars are somehow commendably pursuing some Higher Standard of Excellence, and how some of this technology will eventually trickle down into proletariat vehicles, and whatever else they want to obfuscate us about.

    A massive, trinkety vehicle that will probably get 20 mpg (at best) under normal conditions is still an environmentally unfriendly Totally Unnecessary Bloatmobile that should not be perceived as some kind of environmental vehicle. Period. Dot. Ditto for a 700 hp supercar that makes people continue to desire the most hyper-performance vehicles, at whatever cost to the planet. Porsche fulfills some kind of automotive fantasy, and for that they can sell cars, but are they environmentally friendly because of some engineering gimmickry that still gets horrible mileage? Don’t kid yourself.

    If an American company had tried to pull some kind of similar egregious stunt and justify it as “Green,” people would be all over them. The Germans do it, and they will probably be praised to high heaven.

  • JamesDavis

    I would’ve never known that was a Porsche and I will never own one — it is just too much of all the wrong things.

  • TrasKY

    And yet there are a group of people out there who want to drive high powered, high tech, luxurious status symbol cars and if they are willing to pay through the nose for some new technology which in two years will wind up in a Jetta, i say “Thanks” and look forward to buying that Jetta. The person paying 20 grand more for the hybrid version of the Cayenne is probably not deciding between that car and a Yaris.

  • calvin

    However hypocritical and hollow a sentiment it is, at least now you can add Porsche to the list of companies trying to offer a hybrid solution. Aside from cost (which will lower as battery prices drop), the biggest disincentive that is holding back the adoption of hybrids and EVs is many segments of society’s negative perception of environmentalists and activists. It’s uncool to care about things other than your personal image and materialism. Some way or another, we’ve turned into a society where it’s lame to want to do good or be passionate about a cause.

    But if every major automaker starts offering hybrids and EVs, especially heavily image-conscious brands like Mercedes and Porsche, then it will become trendy to drive a hybrid. Sure, people who buy these types of hybrids will be doing it for the wrong reasons, but it will make others who buy “real” hybrids not look like such freaks and encourage more people to drive hybrids or EVs.

    All the environmental benefits in the world won’t have nearly as much impact on boosting hybrid/EV adoption as someone like Paris Hilton or Bruce Willis being seen cruising around in a hybrid Porsche or Mercedes. So anything that reduces the social stigma of being green and makes hybrids seem more mainstream is a good thing.

  • Night Guard

    This porsche is still a good luxurious car. This is great they have the full hybrid technology.

  • Tony

    Veek, you have to start somewhere, and this is it. Porsche has said they are confident that they will meet the upcoming standards without resorting to trickery and I am sure that these ideas will make their way to the more mundane 997-998. You will see 998s with 400 plus horsepower but also the ability to get 35 mpg when needed. Watch and you shall see. They have done equally impressive things in the past. Porsche road cars get more powerful but with increased gas milage and lower emissions. There may not be that many to make much of a difference, but the owner will know that they have done their part to not add to the problem.

  • calvin

    LOL, I just noticed that someone complained about the Cayenne _not_ looking enough like a Porsche. (They’ve been out for nearly a decade–not exactly a new design.) The problem isn’t that they deviate too much from the classic Porsche sports car look. In fact, it looks like all they did was take a Porsche Carrera, elongated the cabin, and extended it vertically. That’s why it looks so weird–they just took a classic sports car design and slapped it on an SUV platform with minimal modifications. How anyone can look at that front end and not tell it’s a Porsche is beyond me.