The new Taycan is Porsche's first electric car – but it’s not the first one made by someone with the name Porsche.
That distinction goes to the electric contraption Ferdinand Porsche built in 1898. His Egger-Lohner C.2 Phaeton was powered by an octagonal electric motor and had a top speed of 25km/h. The Lohner-Porsche Electromobile, a continuation of the Phaeton, made its debut at the Paris Auto Expo in 1900, followed by his Semper Vivus hybrid car later that year. Despite early success, however, the vehicles’ low power output, coupled with a lack of electric infrastructure, doomed those early experiments.
The company’s modern electric car stands to fare better. The Taycan Turbo S boasts 750 horsepower, with an extensive network of charging stations. In North America, Taycan stations are part of the Volkswagen Group initiative called Electrify America, which offers a charge at up to 350 kilowatts at 300 highway locations.
Porsche has said it will spend more than €6 billion (US$6.6 billion) on electric and sustainable mobility by 2022. And the brand is going big to produce the new electric sedan it’s been developing for the past four years: A €700 million factory opened on September 9 will build the Taycan and its CUV variant, the Taycan Cross Turismo.
The new site adds 2,000 jobs to Porsche’s 30,000-plus workforce; more than 12,000 employees work on-site at the Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen factory compound. The 62,000m² final assembly plant is now the largest building on Zuffenhausen's sprawling campus.
Here’s a look inside the beating heart of the operation.
Out with the old, in with the new
An employee places protective covers over combustion engines at the factory near Stuttgart, Germany. Porsche sells six different models in the U.S., including the Cayenne and Macan SUVs, the Panamera sedan, and the Cayman sports car.
The Taycan is the only vehicle in the modern Porsche family to run on pure electric power. Klaus Zellmer, president and chief executive officer of Porsche North America, says all the models will eventually offer a plug-in option. The last to join the group will be the iconic 911 sports car, he said on November 21 in New York.
A Taycan Turbo juices up at a charging station inside the Porsche factory. Taycan drivers can charge their vehicles with up to 11kW of alternating current (AC) on a simple electrical outlet at home. Or, on the road, they can use the car’s 800-volt technology and Performance Battery Plus, which allows for charging with higher, direct current (DC).
In five minutes the battery can recharge for a range of as far as 100km. It’s possible to get almost a full charge in a little more than 20 minutes at 800-volt high-power stations. Total driving range on a full charge varies according to how hard the car is driven; under the best conditions, it will get roughly 450km of range.
Employees monitor a control screen next to a Taycan. Porsche has said it will invest more than €6 billion by 2022 in electric mobility, new vehicles, new production facilities, and jobs.
New car, new production system
A Taycan body shell is lifted by a cradle on the production line. Instead of a traditional assembly line that’s more rigid in structure and flow, Taycan production employs a “flexi-line” that has a driverless transport system to move components of the car.
This flexibility means special and bespoke customer requirements are easier to implement into individual cars. What’s more, it simplifies the architecture of the new building so it can be reconfigured as needed.
Not a neutral stance
A Taycan stands on a platform ahead of dashboard installation. Since it’s emission-free, it’s natural that the car is produced carbon-neutrally at the new site, which uses natural electricity and biogas to generate heat inside the buildings. The company also uses electric vehicles to aid with manufacturing, and the factory has a bio-friendly roof of live foliage and greenery.
Strength in numbers
Employees perform a quality-control inspection under the hood. All told, it was four years from when Porsche’s Mission E Concept Study premiered and the Taycan factory opened – less than five months later, it started pumping out cars. (The Mission E was the concept car that eventually became the Taycan.)
More than 2,050 construction workers worked on the site at peak times, including 150 planners and site managers, 30 project controllers, and 10 project managers from Porsche’s construction department. In total, 130 companies and suppliers were involved in creating the space.
Wiring it up
Electrical wiring and fuses are exposed before the dashboard is installed. Once finished, it will look simple and minimal on the outside and house complex technologies inside.
Behind the steering wheel, a large screen can change configurations to show three of the traditional five round gauges for displaying speed, engine rev, and drive modes.
The rest of the center console offers touchscreen capabilities to control sound, climate, navigation, exterior cameras, seat heaters, and other comfort and entertainment systems.
On the scanner
The body shell of a Taycan stops for a computer-assisted quality scan. More than 35,000 tons of steel were used to build the new factory, enough to build 140,000 Porsche 911 coupes. The Taycan weighs 5,100 pounds, less than the coming Audi e-Tron but slightly more than the Tesla Model S.
Robotic arms install the windows. The factory covers 4km of road inside its walls and has a total space of 1.8million cubic meters – or three-quarters of the volume of the Great Pyramid of Giza.
The factory site, nestled in Zuffenhausen, is important to the Porsche faithful: it’s the town where the automaker produced its first 356 model, which left the factory on April 6, 1950. By the following year, 1,000 of the little sports cars had been produced, according to company archives. Originally, Ferry Porsche had estimated he would make a series of just 500 vehicles. By the time production ended in 1965, roughly 78,000 Porsche 356s had been made, setting the groundwork for the 911 coupe and, years later, the bestselling Macan.
The Porsche logo is visible on a brake caliper. The Taycan uses powerful regenerative braking that helps recharge battery levels when the driver hits the brake pedal. Porsche engineers have estimated that drivers of the new Taycan electric sedan will accomplish around 90% of their braking via the regenerative function.
And those brakes are big: the Taycan Turbo has conventional steel brake rotors that measure 16.4 inches in the front and 14.4 inches in the rear.
Additionally, carbon ceramic brakes come standard on the Turbo S, optional on the Turbo; those measure 16.5 inches in the front and 16.1 inches in back. (The largest production brakes offered on the biggest SUVs top out at about 17.7 inches.) Both brake options use giant 10-piston front and four-piston rear calipers.
Adding the axles
Automated transport robots carry the front and rear axles. The Taycan Turbo S and less expensive Taycan Turbo both have two electric motors, one that sits on the front axle and one that sits on the rear. (So yes, this makes them all-wheel drive.)
What’s more, the Taycan has an industry-first two-speed transmission installed on the rear axle. First gear gives lots of acceleration and the feeling of more power from a standing start; second gear allows for better efficiency and sustained power when the car is cruising at high speeds.
Need a lift?
A Taycan sits on a platform lift along the production line. The high-voltage Performance Battery Plus is located in the underbody, which helps give the car a low center of gravity and therefore better nimbleness and contact with the road.
According to Porsche, the housing that holds the battery is a load-bearing component of the body structure, to allow for storage of cooling and electronic components and protect them from harsh weather and road conditions. The Taycan is the first production vehicle with a total system voltage of 800 volts, compared to the roughly 400 volts used in other electric cars.
Cameras mounted on robotic arms perform a quality-control scan of the body shell welding of a Taycan. The body is mostly clean, simple, and fluid, with a silhouette defined by the sporty roofline sloping down to the rear. (Porsche designers call the effect a “flyline.”)
The sculpted side sections at the front and rear border a sleek cabin and pronounced side shoulders. The rear comes to an end sharply, with a distinctive band of taillights crossing it completely in the back. A glass rendition of Porsche lettering is integrated in the continuous lighting strip.
The devil is in the details
An employee inspects a Taycan in a light tunnel inside the factory. The company offers ten different paint colors, with nine interior variants, in three color schemes.
The colors include white, black, jet black metallic, volcano gray metallic, carrera white metallic, mamba green metallic, frozen blue metallic, gentian blue metallic, Dolomite silver metallic, and carmine red. Every color is a no-charge option except for carmine red, which costs an extra US$3,150.
A Taycan inside a light tunnel during a quality check on the assembly line. The 750-horsepower Turbo S model will have a zero to 100km/h sprint speed of 2.6 seconds and a top speed of 260km/h.
The cheaper Turbo model will come with 670 horsepower and go zero to 100km/h in three seconds, according to Porsche. Launch Control, which enables maximum acceleration from a standstill, is a standard feature in the Taycan. It works by using an overboost function that pumps the electric motors with a short burst of more power.
A Taycan in the off-road testing area of the assembly line. With more than 30,000 preorders, Porsche had originally planned a production capacity of 20,000 units per year. But recent updates from the company have said it will hire more employees and increase Taycan production capacity after seeing high demand, even after official statements that detailed early production delays.
The finished product
An all-electric Porsche Taycan was driven onstage at the official debut ceremony on September 9, marking the start of production at the Porsche factory in Stuttgart.
The four-door sedan is on sale now, with US deliveries set for March 2020. Pricing starts at US$153,510 for the Turbo and US$187,610 for the Turbo S version. A just-announced Taycan 4S with the Performance Battery will start at US$103,800, while the Performance Battery Plus model will start at US$110,380.
This article was originally published on Bloomberg and is republished here under syndication agreement between Executive Traveller and Bloomberg.