Demand for the all-electric Porsche Taycan sports car has prompted the German automaker to add 500 more jobs at its headquarters in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen.
The move, which will boost jobs dedicated to the Taycan by one third to 2,000, is designed to give Porsche the flexibility it might need to boost production.
“With the Taycan, we are showing that e-mobility is by no means a job killer,” Andreas Haffner, a Porsche board member in charge of human resources, said in a statement. “Rather, we are underlining its future viability, especially in the sports car segment.”
Porsche has poured more than $1 billion into the development of the Taycan, its first all-electric vehicle. And that bet appears to be paying off, if initial numbers hold up. Even before the Taycan was revealed in September, the company reported strong demand for the vehicle, which it measured through the number of people who had made deposits to order the four-door sports car. Reservations required a €2,500 deposit ($2,785).
Porsche initially targeted 20,000 Taycans for the first year of production, although at full capacity the line can produce up to 40,000 of these electric vehicles.
The company has received more than 32,000 applications for the Taycan, Haffner said.
Porsche plans to increase its workforce dedicated to the Taycan by the end of the second quarter of 2020.
The Porsche Taycan wasn’t just a big bet by the automaker; the company’s workers also made a gamble. Workers and executives agreed to cost-cutting measures, including giving up a percentage of their scheduled wage increases through 2025, to guarantee that the vehicle would be built in Zuffenhausen, and not in another plant where the cars could be produced more cheaply.
Porsche’s upcoming all-electric Taycan has set a narrow, yet notable record lap time at the famous Nürburgring Nordschleife test track in Germany.
The company said Monday the Porsche Taycan, which will debut September 4, completed the 12.8-mile course in 7 minutes and 42 seconds. This is the fastest lap for a four-door electric vehicle. The record time was set in a pre-series Taycan driven by Lars Kern.
But it’s not the fastest lap for any electric vehicle. That honor goes to Volkswagen’s ID R electric race car, which completed the course in 6:05.336 minutes. The previous record was set in 2017 by Peter Dumbreck, who was driving a Nio electric vehicle.
Still, it’s a zippy time for any vehicle. Porsche has set out to show the speed and endurance of its first electric vehicle ahead of its debut. Porsche says its record run at Nürburgring Nordschleife and an endurance test at the Nardò high-speed track show the Taycan can do both.
Earlier this year, Porsche tested the Taycan’s ability to do successive acceleration runs from zero to 62 miles per hour. A video shows 26 successive starts without losses in performance. The average acceleration figure from the timed runs was less than 10 seconds, according to Porsche. The difference between the fastest and slowest acceleration runs was 0.8 seconds, the company said.
The German automaker also drove 2,128 miles at speeds between 128 and 133 mph within 24 hours, only stopping to charge the battery and change drivers, at the Nardò track in Italy.
At Nürburgring Nordschleife, development engineers started driving a Taycan around in a simulator to test and evaluate its performance on a virtual race track. Porsche said one of the main goals was determining electric energy with thermal management, which form an important contribution to achieving the lap time.
Porsche is aiming to prove to its existing customers, many of whom have never driven or owned an electric vehicle, that the Taycan will meet the same performance standards as its gas-powered cars and SUVs. It also hopes to attract new customers to the Porsche brand.
It appears the company is on the right track, if the thousands of reservations for the Taycan convert into actual purchases.
Porsche has taken the wraps off of the interior of the all-new, all-electric Porsche Taycan ahead of its world debut September 4. Gone are the buttons and the clutter. This is a minimalist and sleek interior for the modern digital age.
Porsche released Thursday several images of the interior. Earlier this week, TechCrunch was among numerous media outlets that got an up close view of the interior (along with some other things we can’t talk about) and a chance to play around with the infotainment system.
Porsche didn’t just slap a bunch of screens in and call it a day. Here are the inside details and what stood out.
At first glance, the dashboard might give viewers a twinge of deja vu. And they wouldn’t be wrong.
Designers used the dashboard from the 1963 Porsche 911 as inspiration. And that’s evident in the pictures below, which shows a clean and sleek dashboard.
The 911 DNA is evident. But this isn’t some throwback. This is a modern vehicle with its own design story, which includes horizontal digital screens that are sandwiched between the upper and lower dash lines and stretch all the way over to the passenger seat.
The elevated center console stretches down from the horizontal central screen to two air vents that are not the mechanically-operated louvres found most vehicles today. Instead, the direction of the airflow is controlled digitally via an 8.4-inch touch panel that is located just below the central screen. This touch panel houses the climate control system and includes a track pad with haptic feedback. The trackpad can also be used for quick address inputs.
Tucked under the touch panel is a small flat space to place a wallet or phone. Two cups holders and then a storage unit, which is equipped with wireless charging and two USB ports, completes the center console.
Porsche’s design team repeatedly talked to TechCrunch about the emphasis on the driver. And that shows. (The design team worked on the interface alone for 3.5 years.) Although there are plenty of passenger features here as well. From the driver’s seat, everything is in reach and without constantly looking over to the center display. Natural voice integration courtesy of Nuance is activated by a “Hey Porsche” trigger or simply pressing the voice button on the central display or dedicated button on the steering wheel.
The minimalist design continues to the all-digital instrument cluster. This free-standing panel, which houses the instrument cluster, has a slight curve to it. Interestingly, it doesn’t have the standard cowl or lip that is often used to prevent reflection. Instead, Porsche used glass coated with a vapor-deposited, polarizing filter.
Inside the 16.8-inch cluster display, the driver will see three round instruments that display information. Drivers can customize what each of these instruments displays. Drivers can also remove the information for a more streamlined look in “pure mode.”
This pure mode displays only essential information such as speed, navigation or traffic sign recognition (so you know what the speed limit is). Pure mode, which manages to give the interior an even more minimalist look, could be a handy and fun feature for a Taycan owner on track day.
Perhaps one of the most functional features is the map mode. The map replaces the central power meter in this mode. But it really becomes useful when “full map mode” is turned on, which extends the map across the full display. TechCrunch wasn’t allowed to take photos of the interior during its visit to Porsche North America headquarters, so readers will have to imagine it a digital map taking up most of the instrument cluster.
Finally, just to the left and right of the main instrument cluster, drivers will see small, touch-control fields at the edges of the screen for operating the light and chassis functions. One of these buttons is a trigger key, which lets drivers customize what it operates.
The Porsche Taycan has several screens. Oh, so many screens. Beyond the digital instrument cluster is a horizontal 10.9-central display. Directly below this is a tilted screen that houses climate control as well as a digital track pad that gives haptic feedback.
From the central screen and moving to the right, is a display for the passenger. The passenger display cannot be turned on if the driver is the only one in the vehicle, according to Oliver Fritz, director of driver experience at Porsche.
Porsche is experimenting with streaming video on the passenger display. This likely won’t be available when Porsche begins delivery before the end of the year. But could be rolled out in future over-the-air software updates. For now, the company is testing technology that would prevent the driver from being able to view the screen. Fritz emphasized that this idea was still in testing and Porsche won’t roll out streaming video unless it’s sure the driver cannot see the screen.
Porsche designers have made “dark mode” the default in the instrument cluster and rest of the infotainment system. That can be changed to a white background, Porsche said. TechCrunch doesn’t recommend that though. The dark mode, and the ability to turn off the central 10.9-inch infotainment display and optional passenger one, should let drivers enjoy the road and escape the annoying “blue light” that is emanates from so many vehicles these days.
Porsche will offer a number of color combinations in the interior, including an all-black matte look, which TechCrunch viewed. The company’s design team didn’t reveal the total number of interior color combinations, but they did list a few. There will be four exclusive interior colors for the Taycan, a black-lime beige, blackberry, Atacama beige and Meranti brown. An optional interior accent package will include black matte, dark silver or neodyme, which is like a champagne gold color.
The doors and center consoles can have wood trim, matte carbon, embossed aluminum or fabric.
The company is also offering a leather-free trim interior, which includes the steering wheel. Porsche designer Thorsten Klein was careful not to call it vegan. He told TechCrunch that even synthetic materials can be treated using animal products. Porsche is pushing to source materials that don’t use these processes, but until then Porsche won’t use the vegan term.
Earlier this week, Porsche announced it will integrate Apple Music into the Taycan, the first time the music streaming service has been offered as a standalone app within a vehicle.
But Apple Music is just one of the many features in the infotainment system. The user interface is laid out to always show a home, vehicle and messages button, which will lists notifications coming into the vehicle. The voice feature can also be used so the driver doesn’t need to glance at the screen.
Other buttons on the central screen include navigation, phone, settings, climate, news, calendar, charging information, weather and Homelink, which can be used to open the owner’s garage door.
Porsche’s venture arm has acquired a minority stake in TriEye, an Israeli startup that’s working on a sensor technology to help vehicle driver-assistance and self-driving systems see better in poor weather conditions like dust, fog and rain.
The strategic investment is part of a Series A financing round that has been expanded to $19 million. The round was initially led by Intel Capital and Israeli venture fund Grove Ventures. Porsche has held shares in Grove Ventures since 2017.
TriEye has raised $22 million to date. Terms of Porsche’s investment were not disclosed.
The additional funding will be used for ongoing product development, operations and hiring talent, according to TriEye.
The advanced driver-assistance systems found in most new vehicles today typically rely on a combination of cameras and radar to “see.” Autonomous vehicle systems, which are being developed and tested by dozens of companies such as Argo AI, Aptiv, Aurora, Cruise and Waymo, have a more robust suite of sensors that include light detection and ranging radar (lidar) along with cameras and ultrasonic sensors.
For either of these systems to function properly, they need to be able to see in all conditions. This pursuit of sensor technology has sparked a boom in startups hoping to tap into demand from automakers and companies working on self-driving car systems.
TriEye is one of them. The premise of TriEye is to solve the low visibility problem created by poor weather conditions. The startup’s co-founders argue that fusing existing sensors such as radar, lidar and standard cameras don’t solve this problem.
TriEye, which was founded in 2017, believes the answer is through short-wave infrared (SWIR) sensors. The startup said it has developed an HD SWIR camera that is a smaller size, higher resolution and cheaper than other technologies. The camera is due to launch in 2020.
The technology is based on advanced nano-photonics research by Uriel Levy, a TriEye co-founder and CTO who is also a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
The company says its secret sauce is its “unique” semiconductor design that will make it possible to manufacture SWIR HD cameras at a “fraction of their current cost.”
TriEye’s technology was apparently good enough to get Porsche’s attention.
Michael Steiner, a Porsche AG board member focused on R&D, said the technology was promising, as was the team, which is comprised of people with expertise in deep learning, nano-photonics and semiconductor components.
“We see great potential in this sensor technology that paves the way for the next generation of driver assistance systems and autonomous driving functions,” Steiner said in a statement. “SWIR can be a key element: it offers enhanced safety at a competitive price.”
The announcement illustrates the latest efforts by Porsche to focus on digital entertainment in its vehicles as well as its further alignment with Apple.
The Apple Music integration will begin with the hotly anticipated Taycan. However, the relationship between Apple and Porsche won’t end at there, Porsche North America CEO Klaus Zellmer told TechCrunch.
Apple CarPlay, an app that brings the look and feel of an iPhone to the vehicle’s central screen, is already offered in new Porsche models, a list that will include the Taycan. And like the rollout of Apple CarPlay, a fully integrated Apple Music app will eventually make its way into the rest of the Porsche lineup.
The intention is to give all Porsche customers the “same bandwidth of services,” he said, adding that Apple Music will be introduced into new vehicles that have the technology to integrate the streaming services. It was a sentiment echoed in a statement by Porsche AG board member Detlev von Platen.
For now, the partnership between the two companies will give Taycan owners access to Apple Music — and its 50 million songs, Beats 1 live streamed radio station and curated playlists — through the vehicle’s touchscreen display or its voice assistant. Apple Music, which costs $9.99 for an individual membership, recently surpassed 60 million subscribers.
The integration means more than an Apple Music app icon popping up on the Taycan’s digital touchscreen. The company wanted the experience to be seamless, meaning no wonky sign-ins, phone pairing or separate accounts. Instead, Porsche is linking an owner’s Apple ID with their Porsche Taycan ID. Apple Music content in the Taycan will be identical to what’s on the user’s iPhone app.
Apple Music in the Taycan can also be accessed via Porsche’s voice assistant, which will let users request songs, albums, playlists, or radio stations.
New and existing Porsche owners will be given a free six-month subscription to Apple Music, another hint that the integration will eventually reach other vehicles in the German automaker’s portfolio.
Once that period expires, owners will have to pay for the streaming service. Although if Taycan owners reflect Porsche’s larger U.S. customer base, it’s possible that many already have a subscription. More than 80% of the U.S. Porsche customers also have iPhone, Zellmer told TechCrunch.
Porsche said it will also give Taycan owners three years of free in-car internet.
“None of our customers will have to worry about data consumption while streaming,” Lars Buchwald, director of sales and marketing at Porsche Connect for Porsche AG, said during an event Monday at Porsche’s North America headquarters in Atlanta.
Apple is a natural fit for Porsche, Zellmer said, noting that the brands of the two companies are closely aligned with their parallel focus on design, technology and innovation.
Both brands also share a closed system ethos. For instance, Porsche doesn’t support open source-based Android Auto, the competitor to Apple CarPlay. And while that doesn’t mean Apple Music will be the only app ever integrated into the Taycan or other Porsche vehicles, they will likely be few and far between.
“Generally speaking, we always want to be in control of that system for privacy reasons,” Zellmer said. “We don’t want our customers to be approached with marketing or advertising messages that are not relevant or adequate. We will always be very cautious about whom we grant access to our digital ecosystem in our cars. Another reason why Apple is our partner is because they have exactly the same attitude.”
Porsche Digital, the subsidiary of car maker Porsche, is opening its second U.S. location after launching its first in 2017 in Silicon Valley. The second North American office for this software and digital product-focused wing of Porsche will open in Atlanta, which is also the seat of Porsche’s North American car business. Porsche Digital cited proximity to their auto business headquarters as one reason they picked Atlanta, but also pointed to Atlanta’s “local tech talent” and “robust and constantly growing startup and tech sector” as key factors in its selection.
The need for a second office is specifically about serving the U.S. market, Porsche Digital notes, and the company expects to have 45 employees total in the U.S. across both offices within the next year. The subsidiary overall has 120 employees worldwide, with offices in Berlin, Shanghai and Tel Aviv, as well as the U.S.
Porsche Digital focuses on creating software and digital products for the automaker’s customers, but it’s actually probably more valuable to its parent company as a sort of distributed tech talent scouting and business development arm of the company. Its offices definitely occupy global hotspots when it comes to startup tech companies, and having a permanent presence in these locations has got to come in handy when looking to attract engineering talent and potential acquisitions of complementary early-stage companies.
Porsche has secured 30,000 deposits for the Taycan more than a month before the German automaker will unveil the all-electric sports cars, numbers that suggest there’s enough demand to support the company’s plans to produce 40,000 units in its first year.
Porsche initially targeted 20,000 Taycan electric vehicles for the first year of production. But interest in the vehicle prompted the automaker to double its planned annual production to 40,000 in its first year. Reservations require a 2,500 euro deposit ($2,785).
If Porsche is able to produce and then deliver 40,000 Taycans in its first year of production, the electric sports car would leap ahead of some of its iconic internal combustion models, including the 718 Boxster and the 911. Porsche sold 35,573 911s and 24,750 718 vehicles globally in 2018.
The Taycan would still trail Porsche’s other popular crossover and SUV models such as the Cayenne and Macan.
The Taycan could also put pressure on the Tesla Model S, the popular luxury electric sedan that has long dominated this niche in the industry. Tesla combines Model S and X delivery numbers. In 2018, the company delivered 99,394 Model S and X vehicles.
The Model S has had a number of updates since production began in 2012, but it hasn’t had a significant facelift since April 2016 when the front fascia was changed to look more like the Model X.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk said earlier this month that the company doesn’t plan to “refresh” its Model X or Model S vehicles. In automotive speak, refreshed typically means small revisions to a vehicle model that extend beyond the typical yearly updates made by manufacturers. A refresh is not a major redesign, although there’s often a noticeable change to the vehicle model.
The company will make minor ongoing changes to the luxury electric sedan and sport utility vehicle, Musk said at that time. Even with those continuous updates, potential customers could opt for the newer Taycan.
Porsche isn’t resting on the novelty of its first electric vehicle to drive sales. The company is rolling out other incentives, notably plans to give owners of the Taycan three years of free charging at hundreds of Electrify America public stations across the United States. Electrify America is the entity set up by Volkswagen as part of its settlement with U.S. regulators over its diesel emissions cheating scandal.day.
The automaker also is making an additional $70 million investment to add DC fast chargers to Porsche dealerships.