All-electric Porsche Macan hits the road

Real world testing for Porsche’s first fully-electric compact SUV

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Following extensive development behind the scenes in Weissach, camouflaged prototypes of the new Macan are now heading out onto public roads. By the time the all-electric SUV goes on sale in 2023, it will have covered some three million test kilometres around the world, alongside countless hours of virtual simulations.

Digital development and testing not only saves time and costs, it also preserves resources, making it an essential part of Porsche’s drive towards sustainability. Instead of real cars, engineers use digital prototypes that replicate properties, systems and power units to a high degree of accuracy. There are 20 digital prototypes available for a wide range of development categories, from aerodynamics and energy management to operation and acoustics.

The aerodynamics specialists are among the first engineers to work with a digital prototype. Low aerodynamic drag is fundamental to the all-electric Macan with a view to ensuring long range, and even minor flow enhancements can make a huge difference.

“The digital world is indispensable to the development of the all-electric Macan,” says Thomas Wiegand, Director of aerodynamics development. “We started with a flow-around model when the project first started about four years ago.” Even at this late stage, the engineers are still using simulations to fine-tune details such as the cooling air ducts. The calculations not only take into account different arrangements of the components, they also reflect real-life temperature differences.

A digital prototype from the aerodynamics development – this image is based on the current Macan

A digital prototype from the aerodynamics development – this image is based on the current Macan

And thermodynamics are a vital part of EV development. The electric drive system – from the battery through to the motor – requires a completely separate cooling and temperature control concept, one that is very different from a combustion engine. While a temperature window of 90 to 120 degrees is the target for the latter, the electric motor, powertrain electronics and high-voltage battery require a range of between 20 and 70 degrees, depending on the component. Critical thermal scenarios don’t occur on the road but during fast charging in high outside temperatures, so Porsche’s development team must calculate and digitally optimise position, flow and temperature.

Eventually, virtual prototypes give way to physical reality, but the two can also be combined at an early stage, for example in the development of a completely new cockpit for the next Macan. Using what is known as a seat box, the driver environment can be brought to life in an early development phase in conjunction with the digital prototype. “Simulation allows us to assess displays, operating procedures and the changing influences during a journey from the driver’s point of view,” explains Fabian Klausmann of the Driver Experience development department. All interactions between car and driver can then be studied down to the last detail, enabling selective optimisation even before the first real cockpit has been built.

A seat box recreates the driver’s environment

A seat box recreates the driver’s environment

The first physical prototypes of the all-electric Macan were created around the data obtained from these simulations – often by hand or using special tooling. These are then regularly adapted based on the virtual refinement process. But by the same token, findings from road testing are fed directly into digital development, and for this reason, the test mules are equipped with extensive measurement technology.

“Testing in a real-life environment is now getting underway – one of the most important milestones in the development process,” says Michael Steiner, Member of the Executive Board for Research and Development. Endurance testing on closed-off testing facilities and public roads in real-life conditions is still indispensable to ensure that the vehicle structure, operational stability and reliability of hardware, software and all functions meet our high quality standards.”

Michael Steiner

Michael Steiner

The demanding test programme that awaits the all-electric Macan will be carried out under extremes of climate and geography and includes charging and conditioning of the high-voltage battery, which has to meet rigorous standards. “Like the Taycan, the all-electric Macan, with its 800-volt architecture, will offer typical Porsche E-Performance,” promises Steiner, citing development goals such as long-distance range, high-performance fast charging and reproducible best-in-class performance figures: “The all-electric Macan will be the sportiest model in its segment.”

While the all-electric Macan is due to hit showrooms in 2023, Porsche is ensuring a flexible transition to pure electromobility. “In Europe, demand for electric vehicles continues to rise,” adds Steiner, “but the pace of change varies considerably across the world. That’s why we’re going to launch another conventionally powered successor to the current Macan in the course of 2021.”

Stay tuned for more news on both models as testing ramps up.

Macan: fuel consumption combined: 8.2 l/100 km; CO2 emissions combined: 186 g/km

Macan S: fuel consumption combined: 8.9 l/100 km; CO2 emissions combined: 204 g/km

Macan GTS: fuel consumption combined: 9.6 l/100 km; CO2 emissions combined: 218 g/km

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