Porsche Mission R: the future of all-electric racing?

FOUR THOUSAND racing enthusiasts around the world, the North Pole is a block of indescribable office towers in Weissach, Germany — Porsche‘s

research and development campus, about half an hour’s drive from Hauptbahnhof in Stuttgart.

Weissach is the birthplace of what Porsche calls the “customer race”. From here Saint Nick (Die Weihnachten Gruppenführer) will ship anything you or your race engineer wants — engines and transmissions overnight; spare parts, from headlamps to wicker banknotes; and even entire cars, like the 911 GT3 Cup, 911 GT3 R and 718 Cayman GT4 RS Clubsport, fully accredited for international racing. Hell, the Porsche Factory Elves are even available to help out on race weekends.

Private racing represents tens of millions of annual revenues for Porsche. The company, owned by a VW group now very concerned about its liquidity, would like to keep this activity even after the ban on gasoline engines in Europe, around 2035. But how?

The Porsche Mission R is Weissach’s first draft of a zero-emission road racing machine, a vision of a car that could carry the banner for a greener future…. Or words to that effect. Honestly, I got dizzy after they said I could drive it. Talk about standing under the mistletoe.

I can convey the driving experience of the Porsche Mission R in just two words: slot car.

At the appointed time – last month at the Porsche Experience Center in Los Angeles – I was belted in the beautiful and brutal Mission R, in a garnet and ivory livery. The team’s instructions were straightforward: follow the professional driver in the car ahead for five laps and ‘if something’s wrong don’t touch anything,’ said Matthias Scholz, GT racing car manager and main manufacturer. of toys. “Don’t try to fix it.” Like I’m going out to spray ether into the carburetor.

Caution was called for. At some 3,300 pounds against a combined peak power of 671 hp (1,073 hp in “qualifying” mode), the Mission R has roughly the same power-to-weight ratio and lap performance as the key driver in. Porsche’s flagship hand, the 911 GT3 Coupe Car. Other ratings include 0-60 mph in under 2.5 seconds, a top speed of 186 mph, and over 2g of lateral acceleration.

And keep in mind that Porsche made no obvious effort to make this example light. I feel like I could pull 300kg out of it with a flashlight and torx set.

FUTURE SHOCK The Mission R’s cockpit features a steering yoke with digital displays and controls, red armrest “nets” and a racing seat with integrated headrests and five-point harness.


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Porsche

But how can he run, do you spit? According to Porsche, the 82 kWh / 908 volt battery will withstand a heat run or a 30-minute lap session, with no reduction in power. If the paddock is equipped with Porsche’s 800-volt fast charging system, the car’s battery can be recharged up to 350 kW, from 5 to 80% capacity in just 15 minutes. It would be great if the participating race tracks also had their own hydroelectric dams.

First shown at the Munich auto show in September, the vehicle I drove is more of a show car than a prototype, Scholz said. The transparent roof is crossed by integrated roll bars. Most of the controls and displays integrated into the steering yoke are inert. On the outside, the oversized aerodynamics – the movable rear wing, front splitter, and underbody diffuser – are cosmetic approximations. The design uses moving vanes, or flaps, for the side air intakes of the lower grille; these are all simulated, awaiting validation.

On the other hand, said Mr Scholz, this car is much more of a mule, a research vehicle, than any typical show car. As long as it doesn’t have anti-lock brakes or stability control, it is cleanly racy. The team went through hundreds of kilometers of testing and invited many journalists to get started.

We did exactly that the day before my scheduled session. The anonymous assailant was rumored to have confused the stop and walk pedals, stabbing the $ 10 million unicorn into a retaining wall. When I saw the car the next day, the team had fixed the very wrinkled nose – brilliantly, I should add – using color-coordinated duct tape. OK, now it looks like a race car.

SHOW PONY Premiered at the Munich Motor Show in September, the Mission R is more than a concept car and less than an engineering prototype. Many interior details, including the switch console, were mock up.


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Porsche

But what about the sound? As a spectacle, as an emotional release, as a rebellion, auto racing has always been informed by the promise of sex, danger, and hearing loss.

Father Christmas thought about it too. The corner-to-corner whine of the car, similar to that of an ambulance, comes from two square-cut reduction gears in the motor assemblies, there to provide, uh, auditory feedback – loud enough to disorient. the crows flying overhead. Things get even more glaring during hard braking. Up to 60% of the braking force on the front axle is regenerative. The millisecond you lift off the gas, the big motor up front becomes a big generator, stripping the car’s momentum of its usable energy in a ghastly torrent of field lines. The power electronics are screaming.

The feedback the engineers wanted the most was whether I thought the car’s howl was emotional enough.

“Eh?” I said. “What?”

While the Mission R is a singular piece of hardware, I think I can convey the experience of driving it in just two words: a slot car. Have you ever played with an electric slot car game, with small cars and sections of track to assemble? Just turn that up in your imagination, add some racing slicks and get in. The Mission R rips, rages, surges and sings like it’s Christmas morning in the Land of Giants.

Of course, Porsche didn’t build an empire by winning sprint races, but by dominating endurance classics by day and by night like Le Mans and Daytona. How could an electric car compete in this regime? Mission R suggests a way forward.

CUPID’S AERO The Mission R’s elaborate rear wing and underbody diffuser, along with various active aero elements such as the moving front vanes, point to the future shape of an all-electric racing club.


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Porsche

Please note that the Mission R’s design rejects the orthodoxy of one ground mounted battery in favor of one that orients mass higher in the car and more transversely. The battery is a box the size and shape of a foot locker. The 908-volt juice box is derived from Formula E, whose current battery supplier is Atieva, a subsidiary of the Lucid Group,

manufacturer of the Lucid Air sedan.

Intuition would suggest that locating batteries in the ground would result in the lowest center of gravity and therefore the highest rolling resistance. I asked factory test driver Lars Kern, who agreed that the vehicle dynamics somewhat favor the ground-mounted pack design, but…. And then he fell silent without telling me why, exactly, the engineers went the other way.

My guess: hot swapping batteries. To achieve any kind of parity in endurance races, electric batteries will need cartridge type batteries, to be swapped out in the pits, just as piston machines will fill with gas. At Le Mans, GT class cars are generally allowed with a minimum capacity of 80 liters of fuel. This is an energy transfer of around 700 kWh. Loading the same amount of electricity on board would take over two and a half hours to recharge.

So maybe Santa has a whole new bag?

Write to Dan Neil at [email protected]

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