Porsche mulls a hybrid variant of 911

Photo credit: BLOOMBERG

Porsche is considering adding battery power to the 911, making the top variant of the iconic sports car a hybrid, according to people familiar with the matter.

The move would follow the rollout of the $184,000 Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid as the high-end version of Porsche's four-door coupe and reflects the brand's gradual shift to electric power. The plan is part of parent Volkswagen AG's 20 billion-euro ($24 billion) push to build electric variants of all 300 models in the 12-brand group's lineup.

A high-performance hybrid could be introduced a few years into the life cycle of the eighth-generation 911, which is set to be unveiled toward the end of 2018, said the people, who asked not to be identified as the plan isn't public. Porsche engineers are still working to reduce battery weight in order to offer an electric driving range of about 40 miles (70 kilometers) without jeopardizing handling, according to the people.

The technology on the next 911 model will allow integration of an electric powertrain, and the manufacturer is keeping all options open regarding engine specifications, a spokesman for Porsche said.

Mission E

Porsche's deliberations to electrify the 911 highlights the fundamental shift toward battery-powered cars to meet tightening emission rules across the globe, including the brand's largest market China.

Even though sport utility vehicles dominate the brand's sales, the 911 -- in production for more than five decades -- still defines Porsche's reputation for performance. That makes tinkering with the model more of a risk than with newer vehicle lines. The company already absorbed a backlash from purists when it opted for turbo charging over naturally aspirated engines with the new 911.

But Porsche is trying to evolve amid pressure from Tesla Inc., which unveiled a roadster prototype on Thursday. The German brand is increasingly seeking to leverage the instant power from electric motors for sports car thrills. The manufacturer is investing more than 1 billion euros on rolling out its first all-electric sports car, the Mission E, in 2019. It's also considering following up with a battery-powered version of its bestselling Macan compact SUV.

Volkswagen's most profitable brand will invest significantly more than 3 billion euros in plug-in hybrids and purely electric vehicles over the next five years. The push will create more than 1,200 new jobs at its main site in Stuttgart's Zuffenhausen district, according to the company.

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