Previewing an Electric Boxster and Cayman
In October 2021, Porsche rocked the sports car world when it showed off an electric concept called car the Mission R. Unlike most concept cars, the Mission R wasn’t about styling; it was about technology – and race-car technology at that. While it looked great (of course it did), the Mission R’s content was in its super-fast, super-powerful battery pack, its all-wheel drive electric powertrain, and its lightweight construction. With the world moving more and more quickly towards electric driving, and with Porsche’s brand image tied so closely to racing, the company felt it important to make headlines with an EV race car – and what a car it was.
The Mission R, though, was not just a flash in the proverbial fan – and the electric drivetrain and battery components weren’t just conceptual. Indeed, the next generation of 718 sports cars – the Boxster roadster and Cayman coupe – will go electric in the next couple of years, so the pressure is on for Porsche to have a powerful, efficient, and reliable electric drivetrain for their launch. And what better place to develop and torture-test that drivetrain than in a race car?
A High Speed Test Lab
The Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 ePerformance is just that race car – as well as a high-tech, high-pressure test vehicle for Porsche’s latest EV technology. Like the Mission R, the all-wheel-drive racer uses the chassis of the gasoline-powered 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport. But it replaces the gas tank and flat-six motor with the electric motors and battery technology from the Mission R. In max-attack qualifying mode, the electric powertrain can more than double the gasoline race car’s power output, with instantaneous torque and response.
In a sprint race, a steady 612 horsepower is available for up to 30 minutes, the average duration of a Porsche Carrera Cup race, which is currently run by 520-horsepower 911 GT3 Cup race cars. Thanks to its all-wheel drive traction and incredible power and torque output, the 718 GT4 ePerformance is as fast around a track as the latest gasoline 911 GT3 Cup race car, despite the added weight of the battery. Its top speed is the same as well.
Like with the Mission R, the fully-electric drivetrain of the 718 Cayman GT4 ePerformance is based on permanently excited synchronous motors (PESM) on the front and rear axles; maximum output is 1,088 horsepower! Typically, such high outputs can’t be sustained by electric motors for extended periods of time, but Porsche developed a direct oil cooling system to keep the motors and battery operating at their peak – performance doesn’t degrade over the course of a race.
Incorporating Learning From Formula E
The 718 Cayman GT4 ePerformance and Mission R incorporate everything Porsche knows about electrified driving. The company has previous form here, having sold hybrid and plug-in hybrid Cayennes and Panameras for over a decade, and with the 918 Spyder supercar, which incorporated electric motors and had the ability to drive on electric power alone. More recently, Porsche has participated in the global Formula E electric racing series since 2019 with the 99X Electric open-wheel single-seater race car. With a 52-kWh battery and about 340 horsepower, the 99X has served as a development platform for the company’s fully-electric production models like the Taycan, and much of its learning has also been incorporated into the 718 GT4 ePerformance. Energy management and efficiency are the keys to success in Formula E – and in the development of production cars.
Formula E is the world’s first fully-electric racing series. It not only brings thrilling motorsport to people living in major cities, but also promotes the worldwide acceptance of electric vehicles with the aim to counteract climate change. The format is compact: practice, qualifying and race all take place on one day. Each race usually runs over 45 minutes plus one lap. Eleven teams are competing in the 2022 season, with 22 drivers.
In May 2022, Porsche announced that it would partner with the American Avalanche Andretti customer team in 2023, when the third-generation Formula E race cars are introduced. The team founded Michael Andretti has raced in the series since 2014. Their shared history includes Mario and Michael Andretti driving Porsche race cars at the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans race in the eighties and nineties.
What Does This Mean for You?
By 2030, Porsche plans to be CO2 neutral across its entire business – which includes the entire life cycle of every new vehicle it sells. By that date, it expects that 80 per cent of all of the vehicles it sells will be fully electric (by 2025, that number will be 50 per cent), so electric Porsche street cars are coming – and coming fast.
Racing test beds like the 718 Cayman GT4 ePerformance, and the torture-testing they will endure, should help make those forthcoming street cars perform like you’d expect a Porsche should: powerful, fast, reliable, and exciting.