Why Porsche believes the future is electric

March 26, 2015, 4:29 PM UTC

Porsche has never been afraid of innovation — particularly when it comes to matters of speed and handling. But hybrid technology is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the Stuttgart-based company. Aren’t hybrids boring by design?

Not so, said Detlev von Platen, president and CEO of Porsche Cars North America. Von Platen recently took me on a spin around San Diego in a brand new hybrid model, the Cayenne S E-Hybrid. “It’s still a Porsche and a lot of fun,” he said, launching the large SUV through a newly turned green light. “Feel all that torque? That’s because of the electric motor.”

We’ve driven the brand’s 918 flagship, a gas-electric hybrid supercar, which starts at $845,000 and achieves 60 miles per hour in 2.5 seconds. It is incredible. When it comes to an already heavy SUV, however, I had my doubts. A Cayenne already weighs more than 4,600 pounds, and adding a 280-pound lithium-ion battery pack doesn’t make it handle any more lithely.

The latest powertrain, however, combines a 3.0-liter, supercharged V6 and a synchronous electric motor. Together they can deliver up to 416 horsepower and 0 to 60 of 5.4 seconds.

Porsche claims that the Cayenne is the first plug-in hybrid SUV in the “premium” segment, and it can run short distances on electric power alone. Indeed, the EPA estimates that the E-Hybrid has a 14-mile EV range, which means some urban commuters would only need to fill up once in a while. The EPA gives it a rating of 47 MPGe (calculating both battery power and gas usage) and 22 mpg on gasoline alone.

Pricing starts at $74,600, only slightly more than the Cayenne S model, and a huge savings over the $113,600 Cayenne Turbo.

“This is the future,” Von Platen insisted. “Some customers don’t believe it until they get behind the wheel. Then they change their minds.”