Monday, August 23, 2010

While Out of Reach, Porsche Hybrids Highlight Green Strategies

Porsche Cayenne Hybrid

The Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid will go on sale later this year.

The Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid, a $68,000 gas-electric SUV, will not be a big seller. Like other luxury hybrid SUVs from BMW and Cadillac, the Cayenne Hybrid is more of a platform for technology experimentation�rather than a whole-hearted effort to reinvent hybrids for high living. The Cayenne S Hybrid, Porsche�"s first full hybrid, will go on sale in a few months.

If only a handful of well-heeled buyers will fork over the dollars for the Cayenne S Hybrid, then why should folks interested in hybrids�as a means to cut emissions and reduce use of petroleum�care about this vehicle?

Light and Fast

First, Porsche�"s willingness to shift down in vehicle weight is noteworthy. Porsche reduced the weight of the Cayenne Hybrid by about 400 pounds by using a lighter all-wheel-drive system rather than a 4x4 drivetrain. In addition, Porsche designers replaced heavier steel elements with more aluminum in the vehicle body. The weight trimming still leaves the hybrid nearly 500 pounds heavier than the gas-powered Cayenne V6, but it points to the industry�"s trend toward using advanced materials and forgoing features to reduce weight across all segments of vehicles. These measures are cost-effective strategies for improving fuel efficiency�even if it doesn�"t result in immediate cost savings for Porsche consumers. The Cayenne S Hybrid is about $20,000 more than the gas-powered V6 Cayenne.

The other trend that green car fans should acknowledge is the use of hybrid and plug-in technology in the high-performance segment. We�"ve written quite a bit about green high-tech in motorsports�perhaps best illustrated by Porsche�"s own 480-horsepower 911 GT3 R Hybrid.

Porsche took green speed even further when the company last month decided to put the 718-horsepower 918 Spyder plug-in hybrid supercar into production. The Porsche 918 Spyder is capable of 0-60 mph in about 3 seconds and a top speed of 198 mph. And it will cost approximately $650,000.

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