In the first half of last century a sports car was regarded as a vehicle that had more performance and slightly better handling than its peers. That perspective has drastically changed as time has passed. More and more demands and expectations are placed on the offerings available to the modern market. Cars not only need to be fast and look good, they need to be comfortable, stylish and most of all efficient.
So, what exactly is meant by efficiency? To answer this question, we need to look at the standard principles of the internal combustion engine, which is still the most commonly used mode of transportation. At a very basic level, in an internal combustion engine, liquid fuel (gasoline) is burnt to produce movement. Like anything you burn, this produces waste gasses (carbon dioxide, nitrous oxides and sulfurous gasses), smoke (unburnt carbon particles) and heat. It is these waste gasses that the government places strict regulations on, since in large quantities they can be extremely bad for your health and the environment. Efficiency is regarded as the amount of energy in the fuel that actually makes it to the tires. Understandably, the more efficient an engine is, the less waste it will produce.
Auto manufacturers have installed devices since the 1970’s to reduce the amount of harmful gasses emitted by the exhaust pipe. The first of these was called the catalytic converter which predominantly helps with any nitrous components of the exhaust gasses. Modern computer control systems in your auto monitor the concentration and temperature of the exhaust gasses and adjust the engine timing, fuel and air intake so that emissions are optimal in all driving conditions.
Modern emissions standards are no joke as Volkswagen discovered to their detriment. Stringent controls are placed on both the safety and “greenness” of a vehicle. In some countries, such as Germany, vehicles are taxed according to their emissions – larger engines and diesels attract more vehicle tax. So, what exactly is Porsche doing to keep their cars as green as possible, without compromising their sheer performance?
In a nutshell, plenty. They are the first company to officially test their vehicles emissions, way back in 1966. Since then they have been working on improving them with each new car they release; Porsches released in 2012 had 20% lower fuel consumption than those released in 1995 with no compromise to performance. Up to 85% of a Porsche is recyclable. Under the hood, they have employed a direct fuel injection (DFI) system to deliver exactly the right amount of fuel, at the right time to each cylinder, as well as a two-stage lift variable valve timing to make sure that combustion is accurately controlled. All vehicles (including those that are used on the racetrack) can run on a minimum 10% biofuel mix; the Panamera can use up to a 25% mix. Porches use of lightweight materials has vastly reduced the overall mass of the vehicles, reducing emissions.
In addition to all these systems in place on their conventional vehicles, they have also introduced a new hybrid lineup which uses electric motors to supply some of the drive, while a petrol or diesel power plant generates the electrical energy. Porsche has a few novel tricks up its sleeve here, including using flywheels to store energy and decoupling transmission which allows the electrical motors, petrol engine, or both to drive the wheels.
These principles extend to their factories too, their headquarters in Atlanta won the coveted clean air campaign PACE award while their logistics center in Ontario employs solar power, saving 50 000 pounds of CO2 each year. As you can see, Porsche is certainly on top of its game in the efficiency department. To quote themselves, “Thinking “green” is not a trend at Porsche; it is a way of conducting business.”