Does the Porsche 911 need to go hybrid?
“Not Electric… Yet.” It’s a phrase that applies to the Porsche 911 as much as it applies to the ship that carries the Extreme E circus around the world. But there’s one key difference. Only one of them is likely to go electric. And, despite what’s written on the side, it’s not the one that floats.
It’s no secret that the 992-generation 911, which launched in 2019, has been designed to take a hybrid system. Given that for the last two generations the 911 has worked on an eight model cycle with a mid-term facelift half way through, an enhanced 992 – complete with a hybrid version – is likely to be along in 2023. And Porsche has history with using those mid-term updates to introduce big shifts. In the 997 it was the PDK gearbox (2008), with the 991 in 2016 we got turbocharging.
Let’s assume a hybrid 911 will be a plug-in. Given it already uses the 8spd PDK gearbox from the Panamera – which has room for an e-motor in it – it would make sense to carry over further elements from that car. The motor itself won’t add much weight, the control electronics will add more, the battery itself will add most. How big will that be? If Porsche wants to match or better the Panamera’s 31-mile range we’d reckon on a capacity of 12-15kWh. Whichever way you look at it, it’s going to add at least 100-150kg to the 911 for marginal real world gains.
I drive the 911 every day. Would the benefit of being able to do short journeys on electric outweigh the drawback of the extra weight on the dynamics? No. Because as I’ve proved over the last few reports, the 911 is already efficient. It’s light, it’s clean through the air and never a guzzler. If it were a V12 Aston, Conti GT or even a Mustang or Jag F-Type, that would be different. They’re heavier on fuel, there would be a detectable benefit.
With the 911 the benefit is only social – telling people you’re driving an electric sports car. OK, there’s some financial benefit as the lower CO2 will bring down tax costs, but you’ll doubtless pay more for the car in the first place and in actual driving I doubt it’ll be any more economical. And it will inevitably be worse to drive.
I’ve been driving RJ21 TXC for the last few days imagining what it would be like if it was electric. Pulling silently off the drive would be nice. It would possibly be even more nippy and precise pulling out of junctions. And then I come to a halt. None of electricity’s other benefits complements what the 911 does or how it does it.
But the way the future looks at the moment, hybrid is merely a step to full EV. Assuming Porsche sticks to the usual 911 timescale the 992’s replacement will be along in 2027. That one will probably be fully hybrid, and EV ready for the mid-life update. The next one (2035) will have to be EV only.
I love this 911. Yes, I still thought it was better when it was naturally aspirated, but this still mostly makes the right noises, has the right response and manners. It’s the most rounded sports car – not just great to drive, but brilliantly designed, engineered and packaged. It does everything. The 911’s compactness, image, quality, usability and desirability won’t change when an electric version lands.
We can pretty much guarantee it’ll continue to be the best car of its kind, so I suspect – fear – that that car would find a willing audience. A new audience for whom history and legacy means less and technological progress means more. An audience that sees driver involvement as tiresome rather than the be all and end all. And because it sold well and Porsche is a business, the firm would just move on. And there’d be us, left in the dust bemoaning better days.