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Porsche wrestling with sound of silence from electric engines

POSTED BY Nigel Andretti ON 28 March 2016

PORSCHE’S first all-electric sportscar, based on the Mission E concept, will alter the perception of the iconic brand, the company’s North American chief says.

The one big issue is how to get the sound of an accelerating “Porsche” emanating from an electric car.

“The only missing link at the moment is sound and we are working on that … and are “not ruling out” the use of artificial sounds for the Mission E exhaust note. Porsche Cars North America president and CEO Klaus Zellmer said.

Porsche has committed to building a production version of the futuristic looking zero-emissions four-door concept that wowed crowds at last year’s Frankfurt motor show, and it will compete with the likes of the Tesla Model S and potentially BMW’s yet-to-be-seen third ‘i’ model likely to be named the i5.

Zellmer told reporters the company is used to people reacting negatively to any major change it proposes, and added that the production model will feature the characteristics of a Porsche sportscar.

“We have a funny feeling that whenever we change something people feel that we are changing the brand,” he told reporters.

“Whether it is from air-cooled engines to water-cooled engines, manual transmission to automatic or double-clutch or hybrid technology.

“But yes, it is going to change the brand but I don’t think in a revolutionary way, it has got to be evolutionary.

“We have to make sure that with the battery electric vehicle people feel the Porsche DNA in that car and we are going to make sure of that.”

One Porsche characteristic that is unclear for the Mission E is what it will sound like when accelerating, given its electric powertrain, but Zellmer said the company was hard at work determining how it will work.

“That is the big billion-dollar question. We are not answering that yet. We are currently researching on what is a Porsche sound if it doesn’t come out of the exhaust pipe, but let’s wait and see what we come up with.

“But generally speaking if you drive any electric vehicle, the sheer performance, the power, the acceleration, that is all down the road of what Porsche delivers. The only missing link at the moment is sound and we are working on that.”

Zellmer said the German car-maker was “not ruling out” the use of artificial sounds for the Mission E exhaust note.

The Mission E concept uses an 800-volt drive system generating 590hp of power and offering an electric driving range of more than 500km.