To those who want a luxury vehicle with an all-electric powertrain, California’s Tesla Motors has had the market under wraps for many years.

But that’s slated to change quite soon, as each of the German automakers prepare all-electric vehicles. And there are some strong hints in the Porsche Mission E concept car from the Frankfurt Motor Show that the German sports-car brand might be one of the first to push out an electric-car model that doesn’t even allow space for traditional internal-combustion engines.

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While details remain thin on the four-seat, four-door, 300-mile-range Mission E Concept at this point, company officials verified that this is a form penned to be a pure battery-electric vehicle—and of a size that would slot below the Panamera four-door fastback in the lineup.

And based on hints given by executives at the Frankfurt Motor Show this past week, such a model might be produced right alongside other internal-combustion models.

Going electric, premium-style

The approach isn’t new for Volkswagen and Audi, which have for several years been touting the flexibility in packaging afforded by its front-wheel-drive-based MQB platform, and a so-called “vehicle-electrification toolkit,” involving a battery pack of varying capacity, an 85-kW electric motor system, and/or a motor-integrated version of its DSG.

With that group of core components, those brands have thus far produced the e-Golf (an all-electric hatchback), the Audi A3 e-tron (a sporty plug-in hybrid), and the Volkswagen Golf GTE (a companion plug-in hybrid model not available in the U.S.). And a host of other models are in the works, including plug-in GTE versions of both the upcoming Tiguan crossover and a larger mid-size SUV.

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Yet the Mission E’s proportions are very different, and while executives dodged the question of whether it will be built on the MSB platform that’s said to underpin future version of the Bentley Continental and Porsche Panamera, they gave some hints that it could be—and that the VW Group is working on a similar “electrification toolkit” for those premium models.

“We can use a lot of platform systems for the future...the steering, the brakes, electric infrastructure, electronics,” said Prof. Dr. Heinz-Jakob Neusser, VW AG head of powertrain development, at last week’s Frankfurt Motor Show.

The premium brands, too, will be able to share those components between electric vehicles, hybrids, and internal-combustion models.

EVs and plug-in hybrids assembled alongside fossil-fuel burners

“For that it’s quite clear that the MLB and MSB platforms are the deliverers of the platform for these e-mobility cars, and they guarantee that they can use the factories,” said Neusser, who added that it’s the same strategy used by Volkswagen in its ‘toolkit’ of components used with the front-wheel-drive MQB platform in everything from the all-electric e-Golf to plug-in hybrid GTE model of the upcoming Tiguan and mid-size SUV.

Audi e-tron quattro concept, 2015 Frankfurt Auto Show

Audi e-tron quattro concept, 2015 Frankfurt Auto Show

Both the Mission E and the Audi e-tron quattro concept use a closed underside with the battery mounted against that (protected) floor, and electric motor systems in front and in back.

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For the Mission E, that and what a company official described as “zero allowance for an internal combustion engine” permit this model to be very, very low—total height is 51.2 inches (five inches lower than the Tesla Model S overall)—while allowing the sort of the back-seat and trunk space that the brand can’t afford in its rear- or mid-engine gasoline sports cars.

One thing that the companion brands still haven’t clarified is why the Porsche concept stands apart as the first from the VW Group—and the first in the industry, as far as we’re aware—to offer 800-volt technology.

Such a system—which would of course require massive infrastructure and hardware investments—would be capable of charging the battery pack (capacity unknown) to 80 percent in just 15 minutes. Alternatively, the Mission E would allow 400V charging in less than two hours, or inductive charging overnight.

Altogether, it’s a platform that we’re eager to hear more about.


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