Photo credit: Porsche
The fully electric Porsche Macan is ready for road testing: after the first test drives on the test site of the development center in Weissach, the camouflaged prototypes of the next generation of compact SUVs leave the factory premises for the first time. "Testing in a real environment begins and is one of the most important milestones in the development process," says Michael Steiner, Member of the Board of Management for Research and Development at Porsche AG. By the time the fully electric Macan is launched on the market in 2023, around three million test kilometers will have to be completed under various conditions worldwide. The prototype already contains experience from countless test kilometers - driven in virtual space.
fully electric Porsche Macan
Digital development and testing not only saves time and money, it is also resource-saving and therefore sustainable. Instead of real vehicles, the engineers use digital prototypes - computer models that reproduce the properties, systems and assemblies of a vehicle with high accuracy. There are 20 digital prototypes for simulations in the various development categories such as aerodynamics, energy management, operation or acoustics. “We regularly compile the data from the individual departments and use it to build a virtual complete vehicle that is as detailed as possible,” explains Andreas Huber, team leader for digital prototypes at Porsche. Constructive conflicts that have not yet been discovered can thus be quickly identified and resolved.
Aerodynamics specialists are among the first engineers to work with a digital prototype. “We started with a flow model when the project started around four years ago,” reports Thomas Wiegand, Head of Aerodynamics Development. With a view to a long range, low air resistance is essential for the fully electric Macan. Even small improvements in the flow can have a big impact. With the help of the simulation, the engineers are currently working on detailed solutions such as the cooling air ducts. The calculations take into account not only the different arrangements of the components, but also the temperature differences that occur in reality.
Virtual tests with a new display and control system
New methods now enable a very precise simulation of aerodynamics and thermodynamics. “The digital world is indispensable in the development of the fully electric Macan,” emphasizes aerodynamicist Wiegand. The electric drive system from the battery to the motor requires a completely independent concept of cooling and temperature control, which differs significantly from that of a vehicle with a conventional drive. While internal combustion engines aim for a temperature window of 90 to 120 degrees, electric drive, power electronics and the high-voltage battery require a range between 20 and 70 degrees, depending on the component. And the critical scenarios do not occur while driving, but rather during fast charging with high power at high outside temperatures. However, the Porsche developers can precisely calculate the location, currents and temperatures and optimize them digitally.
Virtual prototypes can be combined with the real world at an early stage. The best example: the development of a completely new display and operating concept for the next Macan generation. By using a so-called seat box, which represents the driver's environment, the display and operating concept can be experienced in an early development phase in conjunction with the digital prototype. "The simulation allows you to assess displays, operating processes and changing influences while driving from the driver's point of view," explains Fabian Klausmann from the Driver Experience development department. "Test drivers" are not only the experts themselves, but also test subjects from outside the field. In this way, all interactions between driver and vehicle can be examined down to the smallest detail and optimized in a targeted manner even before the first physical cockpit is created.
Development goal: the sportiest model in its segment
The first physical prototypes of the fully electric Macan were built on the basis of the data obtained - sometimes by hand or with special tools. They are regularly adapted to the virtual development. Conversely, the findings from road testing flow directly into the digital development process. "Endurance testing on closed proving grounds and on public roads under real conditions is still indispensable in order to ensure the vehicle structure, the operational stability and the reliability of hardware, software and all functions according to our high quality standards," says Development Director Michael Steiner. The demanding test program under climatic and topographical boundary conditions for the fully electric Macan includes, among other things, disciplines such as charging and conditioning of the high-voltage battery. This must meet high standards. "Just like the Taycan, the fully electric Macan with its 800-volt architecture will offer typical Porsche e-performance," Steiner promises, and mentions a range suitable for long journeys, high-performance fast charging and reproducible best-in-class performance values as development goals: "The fully electric Macan will be the sportiest model in its segment."
Flexible for the future: another new Macan with a combustion engine
The market launch of the fully electric Macan, which will be the first Porsche to be built on the Premium Platform Electric (PPE), is planned for 2023. Porsche is positioning itself flexibly for the transition to pure electric mobility. “In Europe, the demand for electric vehicles is increasing continuously. However, the pace of development in the world regions with regard to electromobility is different. We are therefore introducing an attractive successor to the current Macan with a conventional drive in the course of 2021, ”says Michael Steiner. The new Macan models with combustion engines will in future be offered in parallel with the fully electric Macan. Before it comes onto the market, it still has millions of test kilometers to complete - real and virtual.
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