Porsche Revs Up Its Plug-in Car Plans

By · February 02, 2015

Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid

This is the Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid. A smaller version of the plug-in hybrid could be purely electric, and available around 2019.

Porsche has already produced two plug-in electric vehicles for the U.S. market, as well as the outrageous—but recently sold out—918 Spyder plug-in supercar. However, the currently available plug-in versions of the Panamera and Cayenne are, according to recent statements from executives, just the beginning of the brand’s vehicle lineup that could add an entire lineup of plug-in hybrid and all-electric models in the coming years. This might include an all-electric Porsche with 200-plus mile range.

Porsche was aiming to release a baby version of the Panamera, to be named Pajun (short for Panamera Junior), in about 2018. The idea was to stack it up against the likes of an Audi A6 or BMW 5-series, using gas and diesel power plants. Last year, those plans were pushed back to about 2019—but the more significant development, according to Germany’s Auto Motor and Sport, is that the Pajun will be a pure EV.

The timing is critical, because according to the German publication, Porsche believes that improvements in battery technology in the next four years will allow the producer of iconic luxury sports cars to offer the Pajun (or similar vehicle) with about 215 to 250 miles of range.

Whether or not these plans are brought to fruition remains to be seen. But it’s important to note the distinction between a 200-plus mile luxury EV (most likely in the price territory of a Model S) in 2019—versus declarations from GM and Tesla (and maybe Nissan) that they will offer an electric car with the same amount of range below $40,000 in the next two years.

Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid

Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid

Porsche’s two current plug-capable offerings—the $76,400 Cayenne S E-Hybrid and $100,000 Panamera S E-Hybrid—are low volume models, selling at about 50 and 75 units a month respectively. That might not sound like a lot, but Porsche is a high-end niche brand. Bernhard Maier, Porsche's global sales and marketing boss, told Automotive News last month that the plug-in variant of the Panamera represents 10 percent of global demand for the vehicle.

Maier added: “When a government wants to convince inhabitants that reducing pollution is a really important issue, and offers adequate incentives, electrified vehicles could grow to market shares up to 50 percent.” Maier didn’t say (or Automotive News didn’t report) what kind of incentives he thought it would take to go electric on half of all Porsche sales.

When asked if he’s a “true believer in plug-in hybrids,” Maier responded, “Absolutely.” He extolled the virtues of a plug-in hybrid’s ability to be “totally flexible” on range and performance, as well as the convenience of “having [your] own filling station for electricity at home or at the office.”

Porsche 918 Spyder

The success of the Porsche 918 Spyder is raising questions about a possible 911 plug-in hybrid in the next few years.

Maier said that Porsche has “a lot of ideas” for plug-in hybrids, including the potential for a pluggable 911, but that additional models were not yet approved for production. He sees the 918 Spyder—with its combination of 795 horsepower and 78-mpge rating—as a proof point. Those specs are possible when you combine a 4.6-liter V8 engine, and a 6.8 kWh lithium-ion battery. The company, which pledged to make just 918 units of the $845,000 supercar, said in December that the car was sold out.

Porsche chief executive Matthias Müller told Autocar last month that, with the success of the 918 Spyder, plug-in hybrid technology “could be a solution for 911.” Although not expected until the next-generation Porsche 911 is introduced, Müller said, “There is no reason against it and we will see whether we have some reasons to do it. We are doing some studies to see whether it can work, whether it will work. We will see.”

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