Porsche: Charger network with a hint of Tesla

Porsche Article 2 - August 29 2018.jpg

The German, luxury automaker is soon releasing its first all-electric vehicle: the Porsche Taycan. The high-performance EV, formerly known as Mission-E, constitutes a huge step for a company whose cars are renowned for the "melodic sound" (according the brand's fan base) of their powerful, internal combustion engines. Along with it, Porsche will establish its own network of chargers: the Tesla Supercharger equivalent, called a "Charging Park" and a smaller footprint variant, called ChargeBox, aimed at drivers who choose to charge in smaller spaces, using the regular electricity network.

As more governments choose to actively discourage the driving of fuel hungry cars and even ban the sale of fossil fuel vehicles from as early as 2025 (Norway), Porsche needed to reinvent itself and give its fanbase a real sports vehicle, only electrified. As a luxury brand, though, Porsche needs to make sure the transition is as smooth as possible for its current clientele and any potential buyers of its first EV. In an interview published on Porsche's website, Otmar Bitsche, Director of Development Electrics, Electronics, Electromobility at Porsche and Michael Kiefer, Director of High-Voltage Systems at Porsche Engineering, reveal the automaker's vision of the electric future. 

Chicken-and-Egg Problem 

Porsche believes that the lack of a solid network of chargers can inhibit the uptake of electric vehicles. Similarly, the lack of EV sales can slow down the creation and expansion of any network of electric chargers. As Porsche wants to ensure its first EV presents an attractive case to its customer base, it has opted for creating its own network of chargers. As Michael Kiefer explains, customers will only buy "if they know there is a viable charging network available". Additionally to Porsche's own network, buyers of the Taycan will gain access to Ionity charging network - a joint venture formed by the BMW Group, Daimler AG, Ford Motor Company and the Volkswagen AG (which includes Audi and Porsche). Although a business case for making money from charging networks will be possible in the future, Kiefer explains, it takes initiatives like Porsche's to get the EV revolution started. 

Charging will be Fast

The main selling point of Porsche's dedicated network of chargers will be their charging speed: according to the interviewees, the chargers will vary in power from 150kW to 350kW, with even higher powered chargers added to the mix in the future. When asked about the impact of fast charging on the health of the vehicle's battery, Otmar Bitsche provided a practical example: Porsche's chargers will be able to deliver charge equal to a range of approximately 400 kilometres/250 miles in as little as 20 minutes, without the battery suffering in any way.  

It is worth noting that Tesla's own network of chargers, the Tesla Supercharger network, uses 145kW charging stations - their power delivery is capped at 120kW per car. Accordingly, they can provide 50% charge to the 85kW-battery of Model S in approximately 20 minutes. Based on the European standard, which Porsche uses to assess range (NEDC), Tesla's 85kW Model S can be driven for approximately 500km, which means a 20 minute charge (50%) would provide a range of approximately 250 kilometres/155 miles. As expected, Porsche's newer, more powerful charging stations will deliver more juice/range over the same amount of time. 

Although Tesla had previously expressed a desire to up the power of its chargers, it recently moved away from that claim, suggesting the end benefit to the consumer would not be great

Charging will be Effortless

Another selling point for Porsche's charging stations is practicality. As the two Porsche executives reveal in the interview, Porsche's charging stations will be created with both the end-user in mind, but also the operator of the stations. For the driver, the design allows user-friendly charging - the charging cables are guided to vehicle in a very clean way. Porsche has also struck deals with charging station operators so Porsche drivers can use any charging station with a single card - as opposed to having multiple cards / accounts to ensure access. For the operator, user-friendliness means that power losses are minimal, thus minimising operating costs. 

Someone who wants to drive from Munich to Hamburg in an electric vehicle today needs multiple cards with which they have to authenticate themselves at the charging stations. Porsche eliminates this authentication rigmarole for customers by establishing contracts with all of the charging station operators.
— Michael Kiefer - Director of High-Voltage Systems at Porsche Engineering

Furthermore, Porsche will be offering inductive charging, shortly after the first Taycan(s) start being delivered. Although this technology will not allow for fast charging, it will create an ideally simple way to charge the vehicle in one's garage, in cases where speed is not an issue (a car being parked in one's garage overnight sounds like the scenario envisioned). A problem pointed out by both men is the lack of an inductive charging standard. As with the cell phone market, where different wireless charging standards are used by different companies (Qi standard and PMA-standard, although PMA is coming to an end, particularly after Apple chose Qi for its devices), the lack of a commonly agreed standard in the automotive industry makes the building of inductive chargers in cities rather risky for the charging stations owner. The interviewees suggest an agreement on the inductive standard to be used by automakers may happen as soon as 2020 - the first Taycan is expected to roll out of Porsche's factory in late 2019 / early 2020, so if this guess turns out to be accurate, it will be easier for Porsche to choose which way to go with regard to Taycan's inductive technology. 

Tesla has not made public any plans for an inductive charger, although it is rumoured to be working on a plug-in charger that can automatically guide itself to the vehicle's power input. BMW recently launched the GroundPad, an wireless charging device that can be installed in one's garage and charge their BMW - regrettably, the GroundPad charges at 3.2kW, so it may be a bit slow for an all-electric vehicle (BMW 530e combines a 9.2kW battery and an internal combustion engine).  

All fastcharging stations, even if they offer 350 kilowatts, will have to be able to charge all electric cars on the market
— Michael Kiefer - Director of High-Voltage Systems at Porsche Engineering

It is not clear whether Porsche's dedicated charging stations will be available to other manufacturers that form part of the Ionity charging alliance. Although Michael Kiefer said future charging points will have to be free of discrimination, he did not specify if Porsche will open its chargers to non-Porsche drivers.

All we can do now is wait and see if Taycan will be a different enough solution to take luxury EV drivers away from Tesla and to what extent Porsche can create a more attractive solution with its chargers than the American EV maker. 

Photo Credit: Porsche Newsroom