It wasn't long ago that gasoline was the only fuel a Porsche could use. Today, the powertrain options at the Volkswagen Group subsidiary include diesel, gasoline-electric hybrid and, soon, plug-in hybrid.
Wolfgang Hatz, Porsche's r&d boss, is spearheading the changes, which will be highlighted by the upcoming launch of the Porsche 918 Spyder hybrid.
Hatz, who was VW Group's powertrain boss until joining Porsche in 2011, shared more details about the company's powertrain strategy in an interview with reporter Henning Krogh of Automobilwoche, a German-language sibling publication of Automotive News.
Q: How important are plug-in hybrid powertrains to Porsche?
A: Very important. We have attained a very good cruising altitude here. For example, Porsche will present the 918 Spyder this year with an innovative hybrid concept. In a tough competitive environment, we have been able to take a leading position.
Are sports cars with purely electric propulsion an option?
In principle, they are here already. Various types of vehicles are being tested. But it won't be an extremely high priority for us to bring these cars to production readiness. The reason is that they just do not have sufficient range. So Porsche won't have any purely electrically propelled sports cars in the next few years.
The European Union is prescribing strict limits for CO2 emissions. Is that a problem for Porsche, with its high-horsepower engines?
In Europe, we have weight-dependent specifications that we have to meet as well. This is certainly a special challenge with our high-performance vehicles. But so far we have always been able to exceed our goals.
Which CO2 guidelines will apply to Porsche by 2015 and 2020?
We are already under 200 grams of CO2 per kilometer [27 mpg U.S.] on average at present. With the accelerated integration into the Volkswagen Group last year, we will be assessed as a member of its brand family. Therefore, we can create a certain balance across the collective fleet on CO2.
VW Group is looking at many ways to boost battery performance sharply. Is Porsche looking for alternatives to the lithium ion battery?
I am still convinced that we will stick with the familiar lithium ion batteries for a long time. You should not forget that we are dependent on being able to provide very high performance in sports cars in the short run in addition to an adequate range. That is another reason that we are betting on the plug-in hybrids for the next five to 10 years.
Is there still the potential for lower fuel consumption in the drivetrain?
Overall, the auto industry has worked very hard on this in recent years. Cooperating closely, automakers and suppliers have been able to cover all the angles that they could reach conventionally. I am referring to better thermal management and the reduction of friction losses, for example. There is still work to be done, but the potential for further optimization is quite manageable. Over the next five years, there is not likely to be as much to do in the classic powertrain areas as in the past five.
What advantages does Porsche have as a member of VW Group?
Cooperation, with Audi, for example, moves all the participants forward. The eight-cylinder diesel, which is going into volume production in the Porsche Cayenne, is one example. Working with our colleagues in Ingolstadt, we have found solutions to further improve the convincing performance of Audi's base engine.