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The Sunday supplement: 3D visions

25w ago

20.6K

On October 18 2018, the Supervisory Board at Porsche took the surprise step of approving full series production of the Mission E Cross Turismo. This all-electric performance crossover had previously existed only as a drivable concept, exploring another avenue for Porsche’s unwritten plug-in future.

But from that initial green light, the momentum behind the Cross Turismo has built rapidly, in no small part thanks to a radical new approach to vehicle development using the virtual world.

The Taycan Cross Turismo, as it will officially be called, will be hot on the heels of the four-door saloon that is scheduled to launch at the end of 2019. In order to meet these rapidly arriving deadlines, our engineers are using cutting-edge digital development methods including employing virtual prototypes. This is a new type of digital modelling that is capable of trialling critical components in a virtual environment, and doing so at a very early stage in the overall process.

Extensive testing in a virtual world not only assesses the viability of components in isolation, but also in conjunction with other systems. And this can all be done long before any physical prototypes have been built, saving huge amounts of time, money and energy. As a result, the development process for the Taycan Cross Turismo will be far quicker and more efficient.

Digitalisation in the field of vehicle development is opening up a world of new possibilities for engineers at Porsche. Computers are used not only to design a new car’s body, drive, chassis and electronics, but also to simulate their every operation. These digital prototypes are used to virtually verify the properties of the car in a wide range of operating environments and it is estimated they have now driven more than 10 million virtual kilometres.

It’s not just an arrow straight artificial road either. Thanks to digital modelling, the Taycan was able to tackle the torturous demands of the Nordschleife as much as seven months before the availability of a real-life prototype. As a result, Porsche’s engineers were able to test and assess track performance without needing an actual vehicle, optimising the all-important electrical energy management that has since allowed the Taycan to lap the ‘Ring in under eight minutes.

The programmes ensure that virtual components act and respond in exactly the same way as real ones, allowing for the sort of niche experimentation that once might have been prohibitively expensive. When developing the Sport Turismo version of the Panamera, for example, Porsche no longer needed to build any ‘construction-stage’ vehicles for its verification purposes, saving an enormous amount of time and significantly reducing waste and outlay. That our cars can now achieve a high degree of developmental maturity before production starts also increases the quality of the final product.

“As well as being able to simulate individual assemblies and functions,” explains Dr Robert Meier, the Taycan Complete Vehicle Project Manager, “we can also fine-tune the vehicle as a whole at a much earlier stage and in a more precise way.”

This adaptability does not have to be restricted to the development process either. Thanks to something called ‘Function on demand’, an idea based on the ongoing digitalisation of both our cars and the way they are built, customers in the future may be able to purchase or calibrate certain functions after purchase. Buyers of used cars would also benefit from being able to retrofit functions that the original owner wasn’t interested in. And ever-evolving elements such as navigation and infotainment systems would be updated ‘over the air’ without even needing to book a trip to the workshop.

Porsche is set to invest more than 6 billion euros in electric mobility by 2022. This means the company has more than doubled its previously planned expenditure for this segment of its business. Of the additional euros, around 500 million euros will be used to develop the Taycan range. Porsche will also be investing a good 1 billion euros in the electrification and hybridisation of its existing range, hundreds of millions into the expansion of its sites, and around 700 million euros in new technologies, charging infrastructure and smart mobility.

For Porsche, digitalisation is not an end in itself however. As long as there is a chance of improving customer functions or streamlining the manufacturing process, we will capitalise on the possibilities offered by the current digital transformation. And the aim remains to make Porsche the leading provider of digital mobility solutions in the premium car segment. But whatever the future holds, Porsche will always be Porsche.

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