For the second consecutive year, Porsche has taken everything in the FIA World Endurance Championship.
It started with victory at Le Mans, winning the manufacturers’ world championship in Shanghai, and now again the drivers’ world championship at the finale in Bahrain this past weekend.
I was privileged enough to be there as a guest of Porsche.
And as much as it was about the number 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid having to finish the race to clean up the trophy haul, the real story behind the horsepower and lap times was how the company used endurance racing at the limit to test and refine their new groundbreaking technologies for your road-going Porsche.
Yes, you might think this is just clever marketing speak, or a good reason to justify weekends playing with racing cars, but the facts are the facts. Porsche Motorsport’s endeavours in running race cars on tracks around the world for hours on end is bringing you closer to the future of everyday motoring.
And there is no way for motor manufacturers to escape the future. Gas-guzzling engines are fast being phased out due to emission controls, and manufacturers are in a scramble to satisfy the stringent regulations placed on them, while keeping their customers happy.
I guess building basic cars that are as exciting as Tupperware might make their job a bit easier, because customers would just want to get from A to B – without any care how.
But sports car manufacturers of the highest order are faced with a different ballgame. Their customers demand the ultimate in performance and excitement, but without much sympathy for emissions regulations.
And up to now, the conventional hybrid powered vehicles have offered some sort of solution to the emissions issue, but not the excitement factor.
I have deliberately not mentioned performance in conventional hybrids because they have mostly been built to beat the emissions police.
But this urge is moderate and does not last long before their batteries are in need of a charge. So, what is the transfer of race technology bringing to the road car table? The basics include mid-engine mounting, better aerodynamics, efficient turbocharging, PDK, regulated all-wheel drive and the all-important parallel electric hybrid drive.
Without getting over technical, the tech on the LMP1 Porsche 919 Hybrid, like four-cylinder 2.0-litre turbocharging with rapidly dual energy recuperations systems, sees over 900Hp availed to the driver for 24 hours of hardcore racing.
And although the Panamera was the first Porsche road car to go hybrid in their range of cars, this first derivative was of the more conventional type.
The ever special 652kW 918 Spyder hypercar then brought the real race technology to the road as a very limited and high-performance, sought after halo model.
So, where is the middle of the road? Well, it keeps moving, as more hardcore race tech finds its way into everyday road cars like the second generation Panamera 4E-Hybrid – that we will be driving at its international launch in January.
This plug-in hybrid generates 340kW and a claimed fuel consumption of just 2.5 litres/100km in the New European Driving Cycle, corresponding to CO2 emissions of 56g/km.
Despite this increased efficiency, performance is not compromised, with a claimed top speed of 278km/h and an instantaneous system torque of 700Nm, allowing for a 0-100km/h sprint of just 4.6 seconds, it is said.
The electric motor is supplied via a liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery integrated under the luggage compartment floor which, despite an increase in energy from 9.4-to-14.1kWh, has not increased in weight.
The high-voltage battery takes just 5.8 hours to fully charge via a 230-V, 10-A connection. If the driver chooses to use the optional 7.2kW on-board charger and a 230-V, 32-A connection instead of the standard 3.6kW charger on the Panamera, the battery fully charges in just 3.6 hours.
But it doesn’t take a massive leap of faith to see where Porsche is going with this technology. There are already small turbocharged engines in the recently launched 718 Boxster and Cayman models.
Add some quick regenerating, on the roll, electricity to these or other models and soon we could be looking at serious high performance parallel hybrid models we thought were only possible in race cars or the 918.
We also know that full electric vehicles are well and truly part of our future, but for many customer’s this leap is still a little on the extreme side right, thanks to range anxiety and the need to find power to charge your car for the daily commute.
And as much as the buzz word within most manufacturers is increased battery range and rapid charging, these vehicles are mostly city options minus the excitement.
But Porsche is getting ready for the next generation too with their Porsche Mission E, the first all-electrically powered four-seat sports car in the brand’s history. The concept car combines the unmistakable emotional design of a Porsche with excellent performance and the forward-thinking practicality of the first 800-volt drive system.
Key specification data include four doors and four single seats, over 440kW system power and over 500km driving range.
Allwheel drive and all-wheel steering, zero-to-100 km/h acceleration in under 3.5 seconds and a charging time of around 15 minutes to reach an 80% charge of electrical energy is all claimed.
Say what you want, Porsche races and you win, because buyers privileged enough to own and drive a Porsche know they own a sports cars with the pedigree and technology developed and perfected on some of the world’s best race tracks in the most demanding and challenging race series.