Porsche Confirms Production Mission E Electric Car, But Will It Keep Up With Tesla’s Development Cycle?

Back in September, we told you about the Porsche Mission E Sports Sedan, an all-electric performance car eager to chase down the massive lead that Californian automaker Tesla Motors has on both the luxury and performance electric car segments.

Unveiled as a concept car at the 2015 International Auto Show in Frankfurt, the Mission E and its 440-kilowatt all-wheel drive, all-electric drivetrain was quickly hailed by the mainstream media — and we note a rather surprising number of traditional automotive outlets — as a car which had what it took to beat Tesla at its own game, despite Tesla holding its own in test after test against other prestige brands.

Porsche claims a 0-80 percent recharge in just 15 minutes thanks to a modified 800-volt charging system.

Porsche claims a 0-80 percent recharge in just 15 minutes thanks to a modified 800-volt charging system.

In terms of performance, at least on paper, the Tesla Model S P90DL beats the Mission E hands down thanks to nearly 400 kilowatts at the rear and more than 345 kilowatts at the front. Then there’s the ludicrous 2.8-second 0-60 mph time, which beats the 3.5-second 0-62 mph time of the concept Mission E.  But soon, we may get to pit the Mission E and Telsa Model S 90DL against each other in the real world.

That’s because on Friday Porsche confirmed it has given the Mission E concept car a green light to become a production model as part of its quest to begin “a new chapter in the history of the sports car.”  Representing a major shift away from the traditional internal combustion engined sports cars of its past, Porsche says the Mission E electric car will offer an all-electric range in excess of 500 kilometers (310 miles) on the overly-optimistic NEDC test cycle, as well as a sub 3.5-second 0-62 mph time and recharge to 80 percent full from a compatible 800-volt quick charge station in just 15 minutes.

The Mission E certainly looks the part -- but will it lose out thanks to long development cycles?

The Mission E certainly looks the part — but will it lose out thanks to long development cycles?

To achieve that kind of charge speed, Porsche says it has developed a brand-new type of DC quick charging technology which operates at 800 volts DC rather than the 400 volts DC of the standard Combo CCS charge connector favoured by all German automakers. While that will allow an 80-percent DC quick charge in 15 minutes, we’d hope the Porsche Mission E will retain backwards-compatibility with the pin-identical 400-volt CCS quick charging system already found around the world.

In addition, optional inductive charging located under the vehicle floor promises to make it possible to charge the Mission E at home without requiring a physical, conductive charging connection, provided of course that there’s a similar inductive charging pad located on or in the floor of the garage.

Other features of the Frankfurt concept car, including the holographic dashboard and infotainment system, have yet to be confirmed by Porsche for the production model of the Mission E. Given the fact that most concept cars lose their futuristic dashboards for more affordable, easier-to-produce ones as they transition to production car status however, we’d guess that particular feature will be missing on the production Mission E.

Unlike the Audi R8 e-tron quattro sports car and several other high-end, high-performance cars seeking to do battle with Tesla in the electric car segment, the Mission E is being hailed by Porsche as a car which will be produced in significant volume rather than as a build-to-order special or limited-production flagship model.

The holographic dashboard of the concept is unlikely to make it into production.

The holographic dashboard of the concept is unlikely to make it into production.

Indeed, in its press release announcing the green light for production, Porsche notes that it intends to invest heavily in the its manufacturing sites, spending some €700 million in expanding its existing facilities to expand production lines, paint shops and body shops.

Some of that money will also be spent enlarging Porsche’s existing engine production facility in order to produce electric motors.

As we’re sure you’ll agree, this all sounds rather promising. While the Porsche Mission E may not quite match the performance and range of the Tesla Model S 90DL, it appears close enough on paper to at least make itself a prominent vehicle choice in the plug-in marketplace.

But there’s something of a catch, one we think is particularly troublesome: Porsche’s timeline for the Mission E.

You see, while Porsche has now confirmed its intent to produce the four-seat plug-in sports sedan, it also doesn’t anticipate the Mission E becoming a production vehicle until the end of the decade.

By that point, Tesla, and we presume plenty of other automakers, will have cars whose range, performance and specifications exceed that of the Mission E.

Porsche doesn't have to just beat Tesla on paper -- it has to keep up with its agressive development cycles.

Porsche doesn’t have to just beat Tesla on paper — it has to keep up with its agressive development cycles.

In terms of traditional vehicle development cycles, 5-years isn’t long at all. Indeed, that’s a reasonable amount of time for a traditional gasoline-powered car to migrate from auto show concept to full-blown production vehicle.

But when automakers like Tesla are following far shorter development cycles which mimic that of the software industry — and improvements in battery energy density and power density mean that electric car range is improving by between five and ten percent year on year — Porsche will have to ensure its Mission E development keeps up with the rest of the industry ahead of its official launch.

If it doesn’t, the production Mission E could be a very disappointing vehicle indeed.

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