The world’s automobile manufacturers are slowly, inexorably, moving away from the traditional and century-plus old method of powering a horseless carriage. And yet, there’s a subtle irony in going to pure electric power for cars, especially for German maker, Porsche. As far back as 1989, Ferdinand Porsche had been involved with electricity in cars. The Egger-Lohner C.2 Phaeton, which he had designed, and with around 5 horsepower, was capable of reaching 15.5mph on a good day.

A year later, he signed on to work with an Austrian carriage maker, k.u.k. Hofwagenfabrik Ludwig Lohner & Co. They jointly developed the Lohner-Porsche Electromobile.  With a pair of 2.4hp electric engines, this reached 23mph. Lohner’s reason for a vehicle with an electric motor sounds as topical today as it did then, especially in relation to the era of mass motorization: the air was “ruthlessly spoiled by a large number of petrol engines in use.”

Fast forward to 2017 and Porsche is looking to the past for the future. A fully electric sports vehicle was on the drawing board. Fantastic, except, what to name this new machine? “Honestly, it’s hard to imagine a more exciting challenge,” says Kjell Gruner, director of marketing at Porsche. It had to be something that would identify the car, its underpinnings and ability. The list was whittled down and in 2017 presented to the Porsche board of directors.

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Porsche

Pronounced with an emphasis in the first syllable as an “i” as in “Tie can”, the origin of Taycan comes from the use of two words from the Turkic language, a language from a diverse group of peoples in the Eurasian and other regions. This word can be roughly translated as the “soul of a spirited young horse.” There is a similar word with a different yet appropriate meaning that comes from Japan. “Taikan” roughly translates out as “physical experience”, or, as marketers would spin: “driving in its most electrifying form”.

Porsche has gone to extraordinary lengths with the Taycan’s styling and engineering. There are three models of the Porsche Taycan, with two featuring a slightly confusing Turbo nomenclature. The Turbo S and Turbo will see a 0-62mph time of 2.8 and 3.2 seconds. The sprint to 124mph (200kph) takes 9.8 and 10.6 seconds respectively.

On overboost, the Turbo S will see 751hp (560kW) with the Turbo generating up to 670hp or 500kW. That Turbo name, by the way, is a Porsche way of saying “top of the range”, not an allusion to anything mechanical. The body is a four-door coupe, melding a classic 911 style with the look of the Panamerica.

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Porsche

The pair are effectively all-wheel-drive, with a motor at each end. Inside each is what is known as a “permanently excited synchronous motor” as it has a highly magnetized rotor that moves in perfect synchronicity with the stator. Although power circuits work on an AC or alternating current method, batteries have DC or direct current. Here, Porsche has used a “pulse controlled inverter” to determine a rotating frequency of the stator which governs rotor speed.

Porsche’s engineers have also used a different method to gain extra horsepower and torque by changing the shape of the copper wires used inside the electric motors. Known as windings, the copper wires are normally round but here they are rectangular, allowing a more densely packed core and increasing space efficiency to around 70%, instead of a more normal 45%. Also, Porsche has something rather unique. They’ve given the Porsche Taycan its own robust soundtrack.

By using the sound the electric components have generated when in use, and also complying with legislation in the EU, a sound that mimics what would normally be heard directly or subliminally is generated. Porsche Manager Production Marketing, BEV & Strategy, Andreas Becker, says “A change in the wind noise, for example, gives an indication of speed or crosswind. And the sound of the powertrain, engine and transmission characterizes the power delivery and conveys identity-creating characteristics such as power or agility.”

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Porsche

The transmission normally found in an electric car is a one-speed unit. Porsche specifically developed a two-speed transmission for the rear axle engine, with the first ratio allowing for a higher transfer of torque to the wheels for better acceleration. By using a mechanical planetary gear set, 15 revolutions translate to one wheel revolution, and Porsche says this equates to 12,000Nm of wheel torque, hence that blinding acceleration. And as much energy as possible is harvested under braking, with potential capture of up to 265kW with around 90% of the braking being performed by the electric motors themselves, rather than pads on steel or carbon discs. This has lead Porsche to a world first, declaring the pads must be replaced, irrespective of usage wear, every six years.

The range is, like any electric, gasoline or diesel-powered car, dependent on a number of factors. Here, Porsche has sought to extract as much range as possible by offering four drive modes, each with a specific aim. Range, Normal, Sport and Sport Plus are the options, and Range is the one set to be used for the most efficient and relaxed driving style. Top speed is limited to between 56mph or 90kph to 87mph or 140kph. The onboard computers are programmed to read speed, road conditions, and airflow to provide the best driving options. The chassis height is dropped by 20mm, air flaps for the engine and battery cooling will operate depending on the sensor input, and the rear axle engine may be shut down for front-wheel-drive only.

Normal has both engines operating at maximum efficiency, and the rear spoiler moves in relation to velocity, as does the adjustable chassis height. However, it’s Porsche’s sporting nature that allows the exploitation of the dynamics of both chassis and engines, with Sport and Sport Plus. Both move to a rear-drive orientation in the balance, the suspension moves towards a tighter, more taut bias, and exterior changes to the spoiler and cooling flaps become even more speed-dependent as to their operation.

Porsche

Porsche’s aerodynamics stand to the fore. It’s super slippery, the Porsche Taycan, with a coefficient of drag of just 0.22cD. This makes it the most efficient design from the German company. A solid undertray is here thanks to no exhausts, fairings cover the suspension components, and a broad diffuser at the rear to help with airflow and downforce. Measures in the area of active aerodynamics include the lower side air intakes at the front.

With their fully variable, individually controllable cooling air flaps, they supply the two radiators located towards the outside. At the same time, the flow onto the brakes is controlled as required, via a brake air duct. The chassis control unit continuously monitors the current thermal load on the brake discs and requests targeted cooling of the brake discs if necessary. One area would be on a race track.

Porsche Active Aerodynamics (PAA) then offers several advantages at the front of the Taycan. When the cooling air flaps are closed, the system reduces drag and therefore increases range. When the flaps are open, PAA improves both the performance of the cooling system and the brakes at the same time. Control of the cooling air flaps is always demand-driven and depends on the driving mode, speed and cooling requirement.

Porsche

Active aero also features at the rear of the Porsche Taycan. There are three different spoiler positions, which influence the airflow, thereby determining the drag and lift. Low drag assists on long journey efficiency, higher drag for downforce on enthusiastic driving runs or track days.

Porsche has also drawn upon its own history for aspects of the interior. The classic lines of a dashboard from 1963 were the inspiration for the future and it’s very much a Porsche hero design. There is a 16.8-inch display screen that is curved to provide a clearer view of the driver’s eyes. A Porsche cowl is fitted over the screen and the look can be of four distinct styles.

Power mode nods strongly to the look of Porsches’ past with circular style instrument displays. Ergonomics for the looks are strong, ensuring a quick glance supplies the required information. And being an electric vehicle, the rev counter is now a power use display. In Map mode, that changes to a map, whilst Full Map has the full 16.8 inches displaying the map in high definition. Reduced brings back the basics: speed, navigation, and road signs.

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Porsche

Between the front seats lies an elevated center console. Haptic feedback is incorporated into the two display screens, one of 8.4 inches and one of 5.9 inches for the rear seat passengers. The latter, though, is dependent on the optionable 4 zone Advanced Climate Control being ordered. The main screen is engineered to read and learn handwriting for address inputs for the navigation. Reduction has been performed upon the design of the climate control air vents. Porsche have looked at the design and now have minimalist, fully automatic, outlets that provide, via the Climate menu, “Focused” for fast, directional cooling and “Diffused” for draught-free air conditioning.

Pricing for the Taycan reflects Porsche’s desire to see it as stepping up from other electric vehicles. The base Porsche Taycan 4S retails for US$103,800. The midrange Porsche Taycan Turbo costs US$150,900, and the top-spec Taycan Turbo S raises the price to US$185,000, compared to Tesla’s Model S at US$79,990 or Audi’s e-Tron at US$74,800.