Porsche’s Mission E: The First Real Tesla Competitor?
Another auto show, another purported Tesla killer.
This time, it’s the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show, and the concept car is question is some sedan with a wild design and ridiculous specs. All electric? Check. Tons of horsepower? Check. Long range? Check. Promise of an extremely short charge time? Check.
Built by some company you’ve never heard of? Actually, no.
This particular concept comes from Porsche, and while it will see production in 2019 at the earliest – if it actually gets approved for production – the fact that it’s being shown by a well-respected automaker like Porsche means production isn’t nearly as unlikely as it would be from a startup company everyone will forget about in two weeks.
Since the Porsche Model E is a concept that’s actually worth paying attention to, the specs sheet is actually probably not entirely made up and is instead actually worth talking about.
The Mission E uses two motors derived from the ones used in Porsche’s 919 Le Mans racecars to produce a total of 600 horsepower. Sending that power to all four wheels with a need-based all-wheel-drive system means the Mission E is able to turn that power into a sub-3.5 second zero-to-60 time. It’s also reportedly lapped the Nürburgring in less than eight minutes.
Porsche also claims the Mission E has a range of more than 310 miles on a full charge, which is impressive, but the truly impressive feature is the claim that the batteries can achieve an 80% in just 15 minutes. It sounds like one of the made up statistics on the spec sheet of a vaporware hypercar, but Porsche claims it can achieve such a short charge time by using an 800-volt battery system.
Instead of using a conventional vehicle architecture, the Mission E follows Tesla’s example and places the battery pack between the front and rear axles. It’s a layout that improves weight distribution, handling, and performance, but it also frees designers from having to work around the conventional limitations of car design thanks to the lack of an engine, transmission, and gas tank.
As a result, the Mission E is gorgeous. The Tesla Model S is one of the best-looking cars on the road, and yet somehow the designers at Porsche have created an even more attractive sedan in the form of the Mission E concept. Granted, it’s a concept and not a production vehicle, but when you consider what happened the last time Porsche tried to design a sedan, the Mission E is even more of an achievement.
A Porsche sedan could actually look like a Porsche without coming out bloated and unattractive. Sorry, Panamera.
While the lack of a conventional drivetrain helped improve both the exterior design and the vehicle’s performance, the interior design of the Mission E benefited as well. Not having to design around a transmission tunnel, for example, freed up additional space and allowed them to give the concept a more open feeling inside.
The biggest question, other than whether or not Porsche will actually be able to achieve a 15-minute charge time like it claims, is whether or not the Mission E is headed for production.
Nothing has been confirmed either way, but from what I can tell, all signs point to it eventually hitting the road. The reaction to the Mission E has already been overwhelmingly positive, which is a great sign. It’s also encouraging that Porsche references a Nürburgring lap time in its press release. A design study meant to gauge public reaction has no use being tested on a racetrack, which means Porsche is probably serious about the Mission E.
There’s also a good chance it’s intended as a glimpse into the future of the Panamera. The architecture of the Mission E would make it difficult to build both a gas-powered version and an electric version, but that doesn’t mean the next-generation Panamera won’t borrow heavily from the Mission E’s design cues.
We’ll have to wait a while until we find out what Porsche is going to do with the concept, but if it goes to production in anything close to its current form, Tesla will probably have its first serious competition in the luxury-electric segment.