The Porsche Taycan is Great, But This is Why It’s Important

  • Lawrence Ulrich is an award-winning car journalist and the former chief auto critic at The New York Times and Detroit Free Press. The Motor City native lives in Brooklyn with a cat and a more-finicky '93 Mazda RX-7 R1.

can be reached at lawrence.ulrich@gmail.com
  • Lawrence Ulrich is an award-winning car journalist and the former chief auto critic at The New York Times and Detroit Free Press. The Motor City native lives in Brooklyn with a cat and a more-finicky '93 Mazda RX-7 R1.

can be reached at lawrence.ulrich@gmail.com
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After two road-zapping days in Europe with the Porsche Taycan – including maxed-out, 167-mile-per-hour blasts on the German Autobahn – the verdict is clear: This is the best-driving, mass-produced electric car in history.

The Taycan is unmistakably a Porsche, from a legendary company that has forgotten more about racing and performance than most companies will ever know. And the Porsche damn well should be the best, at double the price of a Tesla Model S. The Taycan Turbo costs $150,900 to start, with well-equipped, 750-horsepower Turbo S versions certain to soar past $200,000 when the car sails into America in December.

Porsche Taycan
Taycan sets a new performance standard for any electric sedan. (Photo: Porsche)

Already a hit?

Even at those rarefied prices, robust initial demand for the Taycan has led Porsche to double its first-year production target, to 40,000 cars. Roughly 30,000 global buyers have already plunked down about $2,800 to reserve a 2020 model that will roll from a new production facility in Zuffenhausen, Germany.

If Porsche can somehow build and sell 40,000 Taycans around the world, this four-seat, electric super sedan would likely outsell all its sports-car models, including the fabled 911. That makes this a watershed moment for Porsche: The Taycan’s heady blend of zero tailpipe emissions, luxury, tech and performance – including a 2.6-second NASA launch to 60 mph, or faster than a 911 Turbo S – may even hasten the decline and obsolescence of its traditional gasoline-powered cars.

More than performance

It’s all great stuff. But while people are likely to spot a Taycan whistling by – or to hear its cool, digitally-amplified spaceship warble – most Americans will never be able to afford one. So what makes the Taycan more than a plaything for the wealthy, the new dream car for Tesla owners looking to one-up the neighbors?

It’s actually not the Porsche’s performance, as spectacular as that may be. It’s not the driving range: The Porsche’s roughly 230-mile range – still an unofficial estimate, based on our own driving and Porsche’s math – is useful, but a mite disappointing in light of Tesla’s 300-mile-plus standards. No, what’s really significant is the charging, as we learned over a two-day, 440-mile trek from Copenhagen, Denmark, to Hamburg, Germany. That included a squeaky-clean crossing of the Great Belt Link, which connects the eastern and western portions of Denmark, and includes the world’s longest suspension bridge.

Porsche Taycan
Nothing rotten in Denmark: Taycan is green, fresh and fierce. (Photo: Porsche)

It’s the voltage

Porsche’s pioneering, 800-volt internal architecture doubles the 400-volt format used by Tesla and most other EV’s. Yes, 800 beats 400. Battery charging times drop dramatically, because the amount of current required to deliver a given amount of power is halved.

After we drained the Taycan’s battery nearly dry on the Autobahn, including a half-hour straight at speeds between 100 mph and 167 mph, the Taycan provided another impressive speed demonstration at its 350-kilowatt Ionity charging station. Sliding a finger across a black tab on the Taycan’s right-hand fender automatically powered open its DC fast-charging port. (The charger for slower Level 2 charging is on the left-hand fender, the side where drivers can most conveniently plug in at home or at work). I connected the Taycan to its charger via a familiar CCS charging plug, which conveniently allows either AC or DC fill-ups on the same connector.

Porsche Taycan
Plug and Play: Taycan filled its battery to an 80-percent charge in just 20 minutes. (Photo: Porsche)

Another kind of speed record

With a tap of a payment card, the Porsche began to soak up a torrent of electricity, ramping up to a maximum 270 kilowatts (the aforementioned 350 kW, minus some unavoidable transmission losses). That’s roughly twice as fast as any current Tesla Supercharger, which can supply juice at up to 150 kW. I hung up the charging nozzle, whose liquid-cooled cables allow less weight and bulk – a boon to anyone juicing up their own car – and checked my results on the charger’s video screen.

The Taycan filled its 93.4 kilowatt-hour battery from eight-to-80 percent in 20 minutes flat.

Porsche Taycan interior
Clever “Co-Pilot” screen lets passengers control vehicle functions, including nav-based Charge Planner. (Photo: Porsche)

Software-optimized pit stop

At that max rate, which ramps up or down according to battery conditions and protocols, the Porsche was adding about 60 miles of range every four minutes. The upshot? Nearly 200 miles of added range, in the time it took us to hit the bathroom and gobble a food-truck burger.

This is the kind of practical, no-hassle charging that could help transform the EV landscape, wash away “range anxiety” and eliminate a key sticking point for consumers who’d like to make the leap to EVs. The Porsche’s clever, optional Charge Planner uses software to calculate the most energy-efficient route to a destination, including planning your charging stops.

Porsche Taycan charging
Climbing toward its 270-kW charging rate, Taycan slurps juice faster than any EV yet. (Photo: David Tracy)

Lighter wiring

That 800-volt platform is about more than zippy charging. The technology is key to the Porsche’s repeatable, consistent and durable performance, because it draws much lower battery current during hard driving. So unlike a Tesla Model S, the Porsche can be launched dozens of times consecutively, or be driven hard for hours on road or track, without going into a lower-powered mode to cool batteries or electronics.

Similarly, the architecture puts less strain on batteries and thermal management systems during fast charging. It also allows notably slimmer, lighter wiring. Porsche says the design allowed it to trim 66 pounds of weight from the electrical harness alone. It seems only a matter of time before other EV makers develop their own 800-volt systems – Aston Martin is one company already working on it – if only to keep pace with Porsche’s new benchmark.

Porsche Taycan nearing top speed
Electrifying: At an indicated 265 kph (165 mph), the Porsche approaches its top speed. (Photo: David Tracy)

A new network

As Porsche notes, most cars spend 95 percent of their lives parked at home or work. And that’s where most EV owners will continue to replenish their cars, most of the time. But for stress-free, long-distance travel, the other half of the equation is ramping up those ultra-fast chargers that let the Porsche juice up and be on its way.

Tesla continues to blanket America with its Supercharger network, and it remains a huge competitive edge for Tesla owners and prospects. But Electrify America, created with $2 billion in funding from Porsche’s corporate parent Volkswagen AG, is rapidly rolling out these record-setting fast chargers. The opening phase features 484 locations either installed or under development by year end, including 300 ultra-fast, 350 kW chargers along major highways, and the rest featuring 150 kW units that still match the swiftest chargers Tesla can muster.

Electrify America expects a total of 2,000 fast-charging dispensers by the end of 2020, with multiple chargers at each location. Those locations are 70 miles apart on average, with no station more than 120 miles from another. Porsche’s American dealers are also investing $70 million to install DC fast chargers at all 191 U.S. stores. Following Tesla’s lead, Porsche will further offer Taycan owners three years of free charging at Electrify America stations.

The big takeaway

For the masses who’ll never spend six figures on an electric car, the Porsche Taycan still shows what’s in it for us: Technology that will inform coming generations of EV’s, and bring a truly electrified future that much closer to reality.


About the Author

  • Lawrence Ulrich is an award-winning car journalist and the former chief auto critic at The New York Times and Detroit Free Press. The Motor City native lives in Brooklyn with a cat and a more-finicky '93 Mazda RX-7 R1.

can be reached at lawrence.ulrich@gmail.com
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