What the Mission R Concept tells us about the future of Porsche’s electric vehicles

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As head of Porsche’s sports car division, Dr. Frank Walliser holds one of the most enviable positions in the automotive industry. He is responsible for two enduring sports car references, the 718 and 911, and responsible for leading these models into an uncertain future. He’s also a great person to chat with, and in a high-profile conversation at the LA Auto Show, Walliser gave us a glimpse into the future of Porsche icons.

Porsche goes electric. The Taycan is selling strongly and an all-electric Macan is in the works. Earlier this year, the company also introduced the Mission R, an electric racing car concept that closely resembles the 718 Cayman. If you want a general idea of ​​where the Boxster and Cayman are heading, check out the Mission R.

As head of Porsche’s Motorsport department at the time, Walliser helped define the basic concept of the Mission R four years ago. Since taking over the sports car division in 2019, he hasn’t been directly involved with Mission R, but he’s thrilled with how it came out. “Look at him,” he said with obvious pride.

Walliser says concept cars like this are a great way to inspire designers and engineers to find new innovations. “But it’s not this futuristic, ”he emphasizes. “A car can look like this. It rolls, it can already go on the race track. There is some evidence that it can work. Maybe we couldn’t afford either thing, or it’s hard to put it into mass production. But in general, it’s not so visionary that you would say, “This could never happen. “”

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The Mission R eschews the typical EV “skateboard” layout of placing batteries in the ground. Instead, the concept’s 80kWh lithium-ion batteries sit behind the driver, roughly where the internal combustion engine in today’s 718 resides. an interview with Coach, Michael Steiner, head of Porsche R&D, explained the advantages of this “half-battery” arrangement. Dr. Walliser explains the concept in more detail.

“For a sports car, it is very important to have a low seating position,” says Walliser. While a skateboard layout reduces the weight of the batteries in the chassis, the center of gravity rises as soon as a driver and passenger sit in the car. So while putting the batteries behind the driver may go against accepted practice, there is some logic in the decision.

Enthusiasts fear that, deprived of distinctive powertrain features, all electric vehicles will feel largely the same. Walliser has some ideas on how to make an electric Porsche sports car unique. “We have different designs, different engines. We can have one, two, three or four engines in the car.” And Walliser points out that, throughout the history of the automobile, the industry has turned to a few common configurations. For decades, the typical American car had a V-8 up front, an automatic transmission, and rear-wheel drive. That hasn’t stopped other companies from trying different things. “Some guys even put a flat six in the back of the car. Crazy,” he said.

And while Walliser is excited about Porsche’s push for electric vehicles, he’s also a big supporter of the company’s e-fuel initiative, capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turning it into synthetic liquid hydrocarbons that can fuel conventional internal combustion engines. Even with the momentum behind electric vehicles right now, Walliser believes there will be a lot of old internal combustion cars on the road for many years to come, and they will need a clean fuel source. “We’re not talking about saving 911,” he says, “we’re talking about saving the planet.” For Walliser, sustainability means making the most of the internal combustion cars that exist today, in order to offset the environmental impact of their construction.

Walliser reminded us that, ultimately, Porsche is a very small car manufacturer. “We may be building 40,000 911 [a year]. What is that? It’s a day at GM, or Volkswagen, or Toyota, ”he said. (In total, Porsche sells just under 300,000 vehicles a year worldwide, with the Cayenne and Macan making up the majority of that number.) Walliser recognizes Porsche’s reputation for innovation, and he knows that the decisions of the company carry weight throughout the industry. Building cutting-edge sports cars while balancing environmental responsibility will continue to be the defining challenge of its role.

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