Porsche thinks it'll be easier to design an electric 911
Porsche's design chief Michael Mauer feels that switching to an electric powertrain will give Porsche "more freedom" over the 911's design
If its recent moves are anything to go by, Porsche is making serious strides towards a sustainable and more electrified future. As you'd expect, this will inevitably involve the brand's most classic model. There have been whisperings for a good few years now about whether a fully-electric 911 will ever happen and, if I'm being completely honest here, it is the most logical progression for the model. That's something that Porsche's design chief Michael Mauer has now all but confirmed, saying that not only does he view an electric 911 as something that's inevitable but he also feels that it'll be even easier to design a new electric 911 than a new combustion-engined one!
Speaking to Autocar, Mauer explained that switching the 911 to a fully-electric powertrain would actually help make the design process easier because of the car being free from the packaging needs of an internal combustion engine. "Listening to the engineers now when we talk about combustion engines with the limitations such as exhaust systems, I would have been more worried how I should package this in 10 or 15 years, because it’s most likely the rear overhang would be almost two metres. So I’m less worried because this electric technology gives us more freedom." This higher level of design freedom that electric powertrains can offer is something that Ian Callum famously exploited in his design for the Jaguar i-Pace SUV; he was able to create a much more aerodynamic shape that reduced the car's drag, which made it faster and more energy-efficient.
Mauer isn't ruling out the possibility that the internal combustion engined-911 will carry on for a fair bit longer, though. Porsche itself has insisted that the 911 would be the last Porsche model to go electric due to the emotional value attached to its engine and the extra weight of batteries in an electric powertrain. "We will see. Maybe with the next generation, we still can do a combustion-engine 911. I don’t know. As a designer, we will find solutions."
"I used to say that a 911, as a whole, is 100% emotion. And the flat-six engine sound is not 100% of the emotion. It’s the styling, it’s the handling, how it goes around the corner," Mauer explained. "Electric engines regarding torque and performance offer that: yes, it’s missing the sound, but if you look at young kids today, do they need it? I don’t know."
Mauer was also keen to stress that he had been a part of a lot of changes himself as a long-term employee of Porsche. Therefore, the idea of electrifying the 911 isn't scary to him in any way, even if it's a view that isn't shared by certain groups of Porsche enthusiasts or even certain high-ranking members of the company itself. "I’m part of the group that went from air-cooling to water-cooling, and now we have turbocharged engines," he said. "Maybe an electric 911 is another story, but purely from a design standpoint, an electric 911 is even easier in the future." Mauer was also keen to point out that "differing opinions" on things are a key part of Porsche's culture and those differing opinions can lead to the best solutions for the company going forward.
However a new electrified 911 may look or sound, though, Mauer is still adamant that it'll retain the classic silhouette it's had for generations. "The silhouette of today’s 911 is so iconic, and that has to stay. We’ve proved over the years that the new 911 is always a 911 – but it’s a new one."
Whilst an electric 911 is still a long way away and may not materialise until 2030 or even later, there will be a hybrid version of the car coming very soon. The current 992 generation of the 911 was engineered from the ground up to be able to take mild hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrains, including more space being built into the rear end to allow a gearbox-integrated electric motor to be fitted. Whilst we don't know how fast a hybrid 911 will be, Porsche is apparently trying to achieve some kind of performance parity with the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid. This version of the Panamera makes a combined output of 690 hp, can go from 0-62 mph in 3.2 seconds and go for up to 31 miles on electric power alone. Considering the 911 is a lighter car than the Panamera, we should expect that 0-62 figure to be a touch lower, perhaps even into the sub-3 second mark.