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With strong Porsche 911 styling cues, the Mission E concept is likely to be very similar to the production version. 

Porsche and Bentley plan electric future

Porsche and Bentley, two of the Volkswagen Group’s star premium performance players and now positioned to share advanced technologies, are heading for pure-electric production models, each targeting 500-km (310-mi) range, huge acceleration capability, and 15-20 min 800-V battery charging times.

In a major statement, Porsche Chairman Dr. Oliver Blume has confirmed that its Mission E concept seen at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show will be in production by about 2020, and Bentley Director Kevin Rose told Automotive Engineering that the two-seat Bentley EXP10 Speed 6 concept, which looks set to become a production reality, may be offered with a pure-electric powertrain as an option.

Other Bentley models may also be available in pure electric form. “There are aspects of all-electric technology that are very Bentley, including quiet running, effortless acceleration, and almost instant high-torque delivery,” said Rose. These assets would be delivered via all-wheel drive as they are on the Mission E.

With the possible exception of “quiet,” all this is the parallel thinking at Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen, where Porsche has announced a €700 million spend on production facilities that will include manufacture of electric motors.

With VW’s avid enthusiasm for technology synergies where appropriate across the Group, motor expertise and possibly some hardware could be expected to be shared between Porsche and Bentley (and battery modules between Porsche and sister company Audi), although no detailed decisions have yet been reached—or at least announced—and a Porsche spokesman underlined: “The electric motors we develop will be reserved for Porsche specifically.”

Mission E uses two electric motors, one for each axle. But neither company is going into specific details yet.

Official production targets and likely pricing have not been released, but some 20,000 units per annum and a sticker price around that of higher end 911s look likely, with Mission E tussling with Tesla.

The scheduled introduction of the Mission E indicates that the emissions crisis faced by VW and the resultant costs to the company with inevitable knock-on effects to many projects, will apparently not stymie such advanced electric R&D work.

These electric developments mesh to some degree with Audi’s work on a Combined Charging Systems (CCS) that will offer a range of over 400 km (249 mi) after 30 min. Technology of this type has been fitted to the limited-production Audi R8 e-tron and e-tron quattro concept.

At the recent ELIV (Electronics in Vehicles) Congress in Baden-Baden, Germany, Audi made a presentation together with its partners (including Porsche) in the Charging Interface Initiative (CharINev) suitable for charging with 150-kW power. CCS facilitates charging of electric cars with AC or DC using a standardized charging interface combo plug.

This still means finding a power source along the highway and also using one at home or office. Bentley’s Rose said that indications at present point to many PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) owners not wanting the hassle of plugging in such systems.

Induction charging could be the answer, but Bentley customers may be offered an interesting solution, according to Rose: “If we had all-electric Bentleys, one thing we could do would be to take the power to them.”

This would be a service to individually charge a Bentley owner’s electric car’s batteries wherever (within reason) it was parked. Not something that would be feasible for high-volume models, he agrees, but a possibility for Bentley’s very low, super premium EVs.

As well as electric motor production, Porsche’s big spend will see a new paint shop commissioned and a new assembly plant built. The present body shop is also being expanded, and Porsche’s R&D center at Weissach is receiving new investment. Around 1000 extra engineering, design, and technician jobs will be created.

The company regards the expansion as an indication of its priorities. Dr. Wolfgang Porsche, Chairman of the Supervisory Board, stated: “With Mission E, we are making a clear statement about the future of the brand.” He describes it as a “fascinating sports car.” It certainly promises to be, although just how much of the concept will be carried over to the production car is not fixed.

At 4850 mm (190.9 in) long versus 5015 mm (197.4 in) for the Porsche Panamera, but only about 1300 mm (51.2 in) tall, the Mission E is regarded by the company as having a character akin to that of a four-door 911, making it more a four-seat sports car than a GT (Gran Turismo).

Porsche also puts emphasis on the car being day-to-day usable in urban environments as well as having long distance capability and “reproducible” acceleration. “The driver should be able to again and again accelerate and not suffer any degradation in performance (up to a point, of course),” said Porsche’s technology spokesman.

Power output is 440 kW with 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) capability of 3.5 s and 0-200 km/h (0-124 mph) in 12 s. A 100% charge of its lithium-ion batteries would provide a 500-km range but a 15 min, 80% charge would be sufficient for 400 km. The car is being engineered to be recharged by ground-installed induction coils.

The powertrain, incorporating two permanent magnet synchronous motors, will be based on technology developed for Porsche’s Le Mans race winning 919 hybrid. They are said to be able to deliver full power “even after multiple accelerations at short intervals,” adding that the Mission E concept’s lap time of the Nürburgring’s Nordschleife is under 8 min.

Battery position is underfloor longitudinal, stretching between both axles, each of which is driven by an electric motor.

The concept’s bodyshell comprises aluminum, steel, and carbon fiber; the production car’s is likely to be similar although the proportional make-up of materials is not certain.

The body style of the Emission E is highly distinctive with rearward pivoting rear doors (counter-opening) which obviate the need for a B-pillar. That configuration can bring torsional rigidity challenges and raise questions of passenger safety, so it will be interesting to see if solutions are found and both aspects make it to production.

Aerodynamic details of Mission E include integrated air guides to reduce turbulence around its wheels. Headlights are described as a “new type” of matrix LED.

Another significant design feature is the use of camera systems (mounted in the front fenders) to replace door mirrors. Again, it is a matter of whether they meet legal criteria in all markets. As a member of the Volkswagen Group, the car will benefit from experience gained via a similar system used for the ultra-low-volume VW XL1. The big plus is the benefit to the car’s Cd figure. The screens, placed in the lower corners of the windshield, can display other safety information too.

Cabin details include use of OLED (organic light-emitting diodes) for instruments. An eye-tracking camera detects at which instrument the driver is looking. The driver can then activate and navigate the menu of the instrument when appropriate via a button on the steering wheel. The whole instrument display “follows” the driver if seat height is changed, so ensuring the steering wheel does not block information.

The dashboard is a veritable party piece of technologies including a holographic display showing virtual apps stacked in virtual space and arranged by priority with a 3D effect. Gesture control is also used for function selection.

For both Porsche and Bentley, super premium electric promises to take on a new dimension: fast cars and fast chargers.

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