Four years ago, Stefan Weckbach had a comfortable job overseeing two of Porsche’s most iconic products, the Boxster and Cayman. That was before his boss called him into his office and suggested it was time for Weckbach to take on another project, turning the Mission E concept vehicle into Porsche’s first all-electric production model.
The new Porsche Taycan made its formal debut on Wednesday as part of a triple “reveal” in Germany, China and Canada, Weckbach on hand as the battery-car was uncovered in front of Niagara Falls – one of the renewable energy sources that owners could tap into when the Taycan formally goes on sale this coming December.
Weckback took some time for a packed schedule to chat with TheDetroitBureau.com about the new battery-electric vehicle, his role in its development, and what other plans Porsche has for the future in the alternative energy space.
TheDetroitBureau: You came in from the Boxster and Cayman programs. How did the move to Taycan evolve for you?
Weckbach: It was a very big challenge from the very beginning. We saw the potential for this car was huge, and very soon as we started to work on the prototypes. But there was a lot of work, a lot of stress. It was also a lot of fun, and very rewarding.
TheDetroitBureau: You have to be pleased finally having Taycan’s public debut and what appears to be a strong, initial reaction.
Weckbach: Yes, we’re all happy today. It has been four years of very hard work for our company, even tougher than we thought it would be. We wanted to ensure the Taycan would be a real sports car, a true Porsche with an electric drivetrain. It turned out the way we wanted it to be.
TDB: Its been said by your Porsche colleagues that the Taycan has had a number of influences, including the legendary Porsche hybrid race car, the 918, as well as the Panamera and the classic 911. How did each of those play a role?
Weckbach: The 911 is our icon, our most important car and the center of Porsche. Obviously, when we do a new car we try to get it as close as possible to our icon, in terms of performance, in terms of driving dynamics, in terms of emotions. On the other hand, we needed to design for a segment where we can do volumes high enough to make the business case work because we need to earn money on this project.
TDB: That’s understandable considering Porsche is investing 6 billion euros ($6.6 billion) in electrification by 2022. That makes this much more than just another new product line.
Weckbach: Yes, it’s much more than just another new product. We have been working on electrified products since 2011, starting with hybrids and then plug-in hybrids. Electrifying the drivetrain is something very important for us, not only for (reducing) CO2, but also performance-wise. It fits in our brand, which is why we decided to take the next step forward with an all-electric car. It marks a new era for Porsche in terms of sustainability, but it also means we can have a true Porsche.
TDB: Early battery cars, like the Toyota Prius or Nissan Leaf, focused primarily on reduced emissions and energy efficiency. But Porsche is just one of the companies, especially high-end automakers, that have come to realize electric propulsion can do a lot more.
Weckbach: Electric propulsion can be green, but also deliver great performance, and that’s what we tried to do with Taycan.
TDB: Porsche Cars North American CEO Klaus Zellmer told us the initial Taycan Turbo and Turbo S models are just the start. What other variants are in the works?
Wekcbach: We’re definitely working on other models. If you look at other product lines, like the Panamera or Cayenne, you can imagine which way the Taycan can do. Yes, there will be variants with a little less power and maybe small batteries, but it’s too early to talk about that.
TDB: What about with bigger batteries?
Weckbach: We decided to start with a top-down approach, with the Taycan and Turbo S but, yes, we are pretty much open in all directions.
TDB: We’re now hearing some automakers say they are going “all-electric.” For some, that means hybrids, plug-ins and pure battery-electric vehicles. Others insist they will go 100% BEV. What is Porsche planning?
Weckbach: We will base our product strategy on three pillars. Pillar one is (internal combustion engine) cars, very emotional, like the GT3. Then there is the second pillar, which is the plug-in hybrid. Fully electric cars, like the Taycan, are the third pillar. We are definitely doing EV cars but we won’t stop working on other types of cars. We will play in those three fields as long as possible, as long as the market still wants IC cars.