Porsche's Internal Conflict Over Electrifying the 911

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
porsches internal conflict over electrifying the 911

Porsche unveiled the 992 Series of the 911 at the LA Auto Show this past week, providing a model that ought to keep the brand’s most-ardent with little to complain about. The 2020 model year hasn’t reinvented the 911 so much as it has refined it — adding power to the pre-existing 3.0-liter flat six via a new intercooler, turbochargers, and other upgraded components, while also injecting premium features like pop-out door handles and a larger center touchscreen.

Porsche even left room for an electric motor in PDK-equipped variants but a hybrid model 911 was nowhere to be seen in Los Angeles. That’s because the manufacturer doesn’t seem sold on the idea of such a vehicle — a little odd considering they developed the 922 Series specifically to allow for hybrid implementation. Then again, sometimes it pays to hedge your bets.

Giving the ability for the platform to accept an electrified powertrain effectively protects the 911 against tightening governmental regulations and a market that could suddenly shift toward embracing EVs. August Achleitner, product-line director for the 911, recently told Road & Track that Porsche could certainly build a perfectly functional 911 hybrid now but was concerned it wouldn’t be up to the company’s high standards. Weight is among the brand’s chief concerns, as adding a battery pack and electric motor would increase the model’s overall heft rather significantly. Porsche feels it should take time to engineer things correctly.

“It will be the next evolution of this car, that means at least four years from today,” Achleitner said in a slightly earlier interview with Auto Express, noting that any electrification of the 911 would have to be in direct service of improving overall performance. “When I am thinking about a hybrid version of the 911 I do not mean like the Panamera or Cayenne, I mean like the 919 Le Mans car.”

The outlet then went on to explain that its inside sources have claimed there is a heated debate among Porsche engineers on how to best handle a 911 hybrid. Since the model’s hardware would undoubtedly incur extra costs, it has to make absolutely sure it can utilize electrification to improve dynamics.

From Auto Express:

Porsche insiders say the lessons learned from the 918 Spyder and Cayenne E-Hybrid projects will help them maintain the 911’s agility. Engineers are not currently happy the weight and performance today’s batteries would bring, hence the delay in developing such a model.

In certain dynamic respects hybrid power can be used as a plus, say the firm’s hybrid engineers, with four-wheel-drive e-power adding not just traction but also handling flexibility to the 911 recipe.

But it’s the potential for Porsche to add a second, more powerful hybrid 911, to sit alongside the Turbo and Turbo S right at the top of the range, that’s causing the most consternation behind closed doors, our sources claim.

Purists may not like that but Volkswagen Groups, which includes Porsche, has basically made its post-Dieselgate mission statement “electrify everything.” While Porsche has mostly adhered to that blueprint, the 911 is the kind of vehicle you have to be incredibly careful with. However, four years gives the brand ample time to work on or quietly abandon the project. Meanwhile, Porsche has said it will continue developing high-performance GT2 and GT3 variants that rely exclusively on gasoline to get the job done.

[Image: Porsche]

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11 of 16 comments
  • Jacob_coulter Jacob_coulter on Dec 02, 2018

    Probably because a hybrid 911 is silly and completely antithetical to what the 911 is all about. The extra weight of a battery pack and electric motor (likely 400+ pounds) that would ruin the handling dynamics, all so the average 911 driver can save what $6 a month on gas? On a sports car that costs close to 6 figures. But I guess there's always people that want to virtue signal.

    • See 8 previous
    • Open country Open country on Dec 05, 2018

      Preparing for compliance with future CAFE and economy regulations is an indisputably prudent business decision. Hardly "virtue signaling." Innovation is not antihetical to tradition, it's necessary. The Hybrid 992 will still be an objectively fantastic vehicle that will look, feel, and perform like a 911. The cost savings of the 996/986 cars followed by the Cayenne saved the brand in the late 90's/00's. Both were an affront to the hordes of armchair "purists" who feel the right to define the brand. Everyone got over it, and Porsche now remains healthy and well capitalized enough to produce some of the world's best sports cars. At worst, this is a necessary evil to protect the brand's core products. See also: Cullinan, Urus, Cygnet.

  • SunnyvaleCA SunnyvaleCA on Dec 03, 2018

    Don't forget Ferdinand Porsche has been here before a LOOOOOONG time ago! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lohner-Porsche Maybe it's time for Porsche to come out with a new sports-car form factor that would lend itself well to a hybrid.

  • Dukeisduke Why the hell doesn't Farley just resign? Why hasn't Bill Ford fired him? I lay all this at Farley's feet.
  • Dukeisduke I tried watching the livestream (I'm a MT+ subscriber), but after 15 minutes of jawing by the presenters, I got bored and turned it off. I may watch it this weekend, when I can fast forward through that stuff, to get to the reveal.
  • Dukeisduke Electric power steering, I assume. First-gen Chevy Cruzes can suffer from similar issues, usually traceable to a flaky battery negative cable, a $10 OEM part. Weird, huh?
  • Kwik_Shift Once 15 Minute Cities start to be rolled out, you won't be far enough away from home to worry about range anxiety.
  • Bobbysirhan I'd like to look at all of the numbers. The eager sheep don't seem too upset about the $1,800 delta over home charging, suggesting that the total cost is truly obscene. Even spending Biden bucks, I don't need $1,800 of them to buy enough gasoline to cover 15,000 miles a year. Aren't expensive EVs supposed to make up for their initial expense, planet raping resource requirements, and the child slaves in the cobalt mines by saving money on energy? Stupid is as stupid does.