Uwe Michael, Head of the Electrics/Electronics Development Division at Porsche, on battery technology, charging times, apps and artificial intelligence – and how his team are remaining true to the Porsche ethos in this area.
Mr Michael, why is Porsche forging its own path in terms of charging technology?
Fast loading is a great match for our intelligent performance strategy. We’ve closely examined what customers really expect from e-mobility, and what they actually want. There are two key challenges in this respect: the power and performance of e-vehicles and, following on from this, the infrastructure. Customers have two main concerns in this regard, namely inadequate ranges and long charging times.
These are the concerns which a competitor hopes to address with its “superchargers”.
Yes. But we intend to revolutionise charging times by doubling the capacity of the high-voltage system from 400 V to 800 V. In a nutshell – a range of 400 km in less than 20 minutes. Without exception, all our current competitors are advertising charging durations which are twice as long.
What other plans do you have?
We view the entire charging infrastructure – including the charging stations – as a single unit. For example, our turbo-charger has built-in storage which can be used to charge three all-electric vehicles, one after another, without connecting to the grid. It can even be topped up using solar energy. This is extremely important in countries where the supply of power via the grid is not as seamless as it is in Germany, and variability is commonplace.
That sounds like a challenge.
Challenges are what push us to our very best. We gave a great deal of thought to how we could meet the specific expectations of Porsche customers. And that was exactly where we started – with something no one has done before.
An 800 V electrical system?
Exactly. Because that allows us to achieve something our customers particularly value in a Porsche vehicle – an optimised power-to-weight ratio, even when charging.
What does that mean?
Physicists use the equation P = U x I, or in other words power equals voltage times current. So if you want more power, you have to change one of these two variables. Up until now, all the automotive manufacturers have done that by increasing the current. But this means that the cables have to get thicker, which in turn means a huge increase in weight, and the limits of the system are quickly reached. To circumvent this problem, we’re increasing the voltage in our charging system.
There’s no reason whatsoever to worry about that happening. On the contrary, I hope that artificial intelligence will help me to work a lot smarter. The systems for reproductive learning already perform extraordinarily well, and help me to find the information I need. Even in the future, though, engineers will have the upper hand in terms of creative thinking.