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Elon Musk, take note: Porsche's electric Taycan is coming to Singapore

Even without a conventional engine, the Taycan will offer a genuine Porsche driving experience, says its maker

"The Taycan embodies the performance soul of Porsche that people around the world know so well, but wrapped up in an all-new package that brings this Porsche DNA into a new age," says Mr Steiner.

Fuzhou, China

TALK about a global debut. On Wednesday, Porsche pulled the wraps off the Taycan, its first full electric vehicle (EV) and a car so important that it was launched simultaneously at three key locations around the world: Germany, the US-Canada border and China.

Based on the Mission E Concept car that was first revealed in 2015, the Taycan is a four-door grand touring performance sedan that has one very obvious rival in its sights, the Tesla Model S.

But unlike the Tesla, the Porsche Taycan will be available for sale in Singapore through official channels, with the car set to arrive here by the second quarter of next year.

Porsche remains tight-lipped on pricing details for the car in Singapore, citing uncertainties in future legislation with regards to EVs here.

Porsche intends to price the new EV between its Cayenne and Panamera lines. A Cayenne Turbo costs S$607,188 here without options or Certificate Of Entitlement, while a Panamera Turbo at S$721,688. Expect the Taycan Turbo to slip somewhere between those two rungs on the pricing ladder.

While that may seem like a pretty penny to spend, the Taycan's pricing doesn't appear to have curbed interest in the car.

Prior to Wednesday's launch, Porsche had already collected 30,000 deposits from interested buyers around the world. The sports car specialist declined to reveal figures for Singapore, but a spokesperson told The Business Times that "there has been strong interest" from customers here.

What could lie at the heart of its appeal is the fact that, even without a conventional engine, the Taycan will offer a genuine Porsche driving experience, according to its maker.

Michael Steiner, member of the Executive Board of Porsche AG - Research and Development, said: "The Taycan embodies the performance soul of Porsche that people around the world know so well, but wrapped up in an all-new package that brings this Porsche DNA into a new age."

Backing those claims up are performance figures you would expect from a car with a Porsche emblem. The top-of-the-line Taycan Turbo S model puts up to 761 horsepower at the driver's beck and call, enabling it to zoom from 0-100km/h in 2.8 seconds.

The more basic Taycan Turbo offers a respectable 680hp, allowing it to go from 0-100km/h in 3.2 seconds.

But beyond power and speed, Porsche has also promised breakthroughs in terms of EV range and charging speed with the Taycan.

On a full charge, the Taycan Turbo S can travel up to 412km, while the Taycan Turbo has a range of up to 450km, nearly as far as many petrol cars can travel.

Just as important, the Taycan is the first production EV to boast a system voltage of 800 volts, double that of a regular EV. That gives it ultra-fast charging capability, with the Taycan able to take in up to 350kW; in just 5 minutes of rapid charging it can gain 100km of range, or go from 5 per cent to 80 per cent battery capacity in only 20 minutes.

That dramatically reduces typical EV charging times, which are now in the hours, and could eliminate a major roadblock for EV adoption, especially for buyers who want minimal disruption when they convert from fuel-powered cars.

The 800 volt architecture is something Porsche used to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race many times, by deploying the tech in its hybrid racing machines.

But while the system worked at racing circuits, out on the street there are few compatible fast chargers for the Taycan.

Nevertheless, Porsche is working with other carmakers in Europe to set up a network of public chargers capable of juicing up the new car at the promised rate.

In Singapore, the Porsche Asia Pacific spokesperson told BT that Porsche will work with the relevant stakeholders, such as SP Group, to offer fast charging at various locations around the island once the first Taycans are delivered to customers.

Whatever way it eventually fits in with Singapore's EV landscape, the Taycan will play a major role in Porsche's future, according to Gernot Döllner, Porsche's vice-president for Product and Concepts.

"By 2025, half of our cars will be electrified," he told BT, with the Taycan set to be complemented by the Cross Turismo, a battery-powered wagon model next year.

In fact, the Taycan is not so much a new Porsche model as it is the first model from a new Porsche.

Dr Döllner told BT that Porsche's front-engined models will eventually transition away from fossil fuels altogether. The next Macan, a Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) that is currently Porsche's global best-selling model, is scheduled to appear in 2021 as an EV.

Porsche is not alone in amping up its EV plans, however. Tightening emissions rules, along with the threat of outright bans for fossil fuel power in some cities, mean every major car maker is scrambling to add batteries to its cars in some form or another.

In fact, on the same day as the Taycan's unveiling, Italian exotic car builder (and fellow member of the sprawling Volkswagen Group) Lamborghini announced the limited-edition Sian, its first-ever electrified model, albeit one that packs a 785hp V12 engine with a 48-volt electric motor that brings total output to 819hp.

But it is the Taycan that looks like the headline act in the Volkswagen Group's electrification dance. Next year the group's upscale Audi brand will launch its own version of the car, the e-tron GT, in a move that will help to spread its development costs over a greater volume of cars.

That would boost the Taycan's profitability, but it would have to because Porsche's bet on EV technology is a big one. The company will plough 6 billion euros (S$9.1 billion) into developing electrification technology until 2022.

The Taycan may be bringing race-winning technology to the market, but in the upcoming EV era, its real mission is to keep the lights on at Porsche.