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Green Porsche power

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The Green Porsche Tried and Tested: Living with the Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid. Car review by Adrian Maul.

After discovering that on paper the Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid is the most economical car that is readily available in the UAE I was then lucky enough to be given one to use for a few days. The S E-Hybrid has a 3.0l V6 petrol engine coupled with a 70 kW electric motor that can produce a combined 416 hp. The car reaches 100 kmh in just 5.5 seconds, has a top speed of 270 km/h and fuel consumption of just 3.1 l/100km on the combined cycle.

OK, so the numbers are done and it’s proof that you don’t have to compromise on speed and power if you pick a more environmentally-friendly car. But what is a luxury high-end brand like Porsche doing dabbling in eco-friendly? Surely they’re only interested in good- looking, high performance sports cars? Nope, you might be surprised to know that back in the late 1800s, Professor Ferdinand Porsche started designing and developing electric cars and his Lohner- Porsche car was a sensation at the 1900 Paris World Exhibition; it was powered by steered wheel hub electric motors. Shortly after that, and to increase the range of his vehicle, he combined a petrol engine with the battery-powered hubs to create the first hybrid powered car. So in reality it is in Porsche’s DNA to lead the way in automotive development.

PUT TO THE TEST

Electric vehicles, and that tends to include hybrids, are most suited to shorter journeys where their batteries take most of the load. In fact if you had to do the daily commute between Abu Dhabi and Dubai then these cars really are not suited. Or is that still the case? I live in Dubai and work in Abu Dhabi, and the S E-Hybrid has one trick up its sleeve that can help here; it is a plug-in. This means that instead of relying solely on the engine and residual momentum to recharge the batteries, this car can be plugged into an electricity supply as well. This was worth an experiment then! So, sorry, but here are more numbers. I decided to do three tests:

Test 1: Short city drive

First was a short drive out in Dubai, and here I drove for 25 minutes with four adults in the car and managed to get a fuel consumption of just 0.4 l/100km, this would compare to about 10gms of CO2 per km, staggering when average car emissions are around 150gms of CO2 per km. Remember though that in this scenario the electric motor does most of the work with the petrol engine cutting in only very occasionally.

Test 2: Dubai to Abu Dhabi Full Battery
The second test was my daily commute from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, a journey of 118 km. I left home with a full battery having charged the car overnight, and was able to get a fuel consumption return of 7.4 l/100km. I drove the car in its economy mode (E-Power), which ran the battery down after around 30km. E-Power mode means the engine did not expend additional power to recharge it; leaving the battery low at the destination. The optimum way to use this mode is to plug the car into an external power source at the end of every journey. The fuel consumption achieved is remarkable for a car of this size and performance.

Test 3: Dubai to Abu Dhabi Flat Battery
I did the same Dubai to Abu Dhabi commute, but this time starting with the battery flat and relying on the car to re-charge the battery using it’s E-Charge mode as I drove. This time I got a return of 10.8 l/100km, still very impressive for this type of car.

Test 4: Sports mode – just for fun
Yes, I also tried the car in its sport mode, not really a proper test as I didn’t even bother to get the consumption figures, but boy is it fun! The suspension stiffens up, the response sharpens dramatically and the lamb is most certainly turned into a wolf, I was grinning from ear to ear through every roundabout and bend in the road that I could find. While observing the speed limits of course!

This car is a fantastic example of engineering expertise. It is very much two cars in one, a luxurious and refined sedan as well as a thoroughbred sports car for those with the need for a little adrenalin rush. It comfortably seats four adults. My only criticism of the car is that you cannot sit five people in it due to the rear centre console. The boot is of a reasonable size and more than adequate to collect the groceries or take you and your clubs to the golf course.

WALLET DAMAGE

The Panamera S E-Hybrid costs a little under AED 500,000 in base form, and nearly AED 600,000 with the options that you are bound to want. OK then, so why should you buy it? Let’s face it, if you can afford this car you are not buying it for its cheap fuel running costs. What you are buying with this car is the future, the future of technology to come that other manufacturers are certain to follow; but more importantly the future for the environment, your children and grand children. If everybody switched to cars as environmentally-friendly as the Panamera S E-Hybrid then air quality in cities would improve dramatically, respiratory illnesses and early death from pollution- related diseases would decline and the contribution of transportation towards global warming would significantly reduce. When you take account that light vehicles contribute to about 20 per cent of global warming emissions in developed countries, this really is significant.

HYBRID TECHNOLOGY FOR DUMMIES

Hybrid technology mainly falls into two categories:
1. Standard hybrids that have electric motors powered by batteries as well as petrol engines. The cars tend to run off the batteries and electric motor when there is enough charge in the battery, and switch to the engines when additional power is required, or the battery charge is too low. The batteries on these cars are recharged by the engine, brake regeneration and regeneration from coasting.

2. Plug-in hybrids have all the features of standard hybrids, plus the ability to recharge the batteries by plugging into an external power source such as a domestic electric socket. The advantage here is that the cost of recharging the batteries this way is significantly less, it does not take power from the engine whilst recharging this way, thus saving petrol. If you are only doing short distance city driving then your car can be recharged over night, and whilst parked at work, and the result is that you could use almost no petrol at all.

The Panamera S E-Hybrid is a plug-in hybrid with a few additional clever gadgets to improve its efficiency. Its electric motor acts as an electricity generator when the batteries are being charged, either from the engine, during braking and even when the car is coasting, thus the maximum amount of residual energy is used efficiently and reducing overall fuel consumption.

Remember however that if you drive a hybrid car hard then you will be primarily using the engine and not the battery so you will not get anything close to the specified economy or emissions figures. This is especially true for the Panamera S E-Hybrid as the driver can get carried away with the performance and capability of the car.

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