Complex Made Simple

Interview: Porsche CEO discusses their first-ever electric vehicle, the Taycan

With the release of Porsche's first fully-electric vehicle, the Taycan, we spoke with the company's regional CEO to learn more about the company's EV strategy moving forward, as well as the receptibility of the MENA market.

"There are many benefits that already come with owning an EV, such as home charging and lower costs compared to gasoline prices in many parts of the world, including here in Dubai" "The Middle East is on the same path as the rest of the world in looking for ways to reduce emissions, reduce our dependency on oil and to find a more sustainable balance" "There are probably fewer challenges in the Middle East compared to Europe and the US for example, as people here tend to either drive within the city and urban environments where charging points can be readily deployed and then fly to other parts of the region"

With the release of the Taycan, Porsche’s first fully-electric vehicle (EV), AMEinfo had the chance to speak with Dr Manfred Bräunl, CEO of Porsche Middle East and Africa FZE, to learn more about Porsche’s plans in the EV sector and the overall market. 

“There are many benefits that already come with owning an EV, such as home charging and lower costs compared to gasoline prices in many parts of the world, including here in Dubai,” Dr. Bräunl told AMEinfo

With the Middle East hosting its first-ever EV motor show last year, the automotive sector in the region is seeing a push towards a different breed of vehicles, one the Middle East is slowly but surely embracing. 

Dr Manfred Bräunl, CEO of Porsche Middle East and Africa FZE

1. What is Porsche hoping to accomplish with the release of the Taycan?

The Taycan is our first all-electric, zero emission vehicle. It represents the future direction of Porsche in that we believe in sustainability and the need for electrification, while at the same time not forgetting Porsche’s roots as a manufacturer of luxury sports cars.

When you drive the Taycan, it feels like a Porsche with its low driving position and two-speed transmission, which you won’t find in any other EV. These add to its sporting characteristics, so when someone steps from a 911 into a Taycan they will instantly recognise the similarities in the driving position, the quality of materials, its interior layout and build quality.

Another benefit we believe this car will deliver for Porsche will be new customers to the brand, as this offers EV enthusiasts their first opportunity to own one of our cars, which meets their zero emission credentials. Last but not least, the all-new Taycan is an important product further enhancing the public’s fascination with the brand and recognising Porsche as a manufacturer of the most iconic sports cars in the world.

2. How does the price of the Taycan compare with other Porsche models of a similar price level, and how will you encourage customers to make the switch to your new EV instead of your gasoline-powered options?

The response to Taycan so far has been very positive. Prior to the official launch, Porsche had already received more than 30,000 pre-orders globally, so we believe there is a ready market waiting for it to arrive in showrooms.

There are many benefits that already come with owning an EV, such as home charging and lower costs compared to gasoline prices in many parts of the world, including here in Dubai. Most governments provide incentives, depending on where you live that include the use of car-pool lanes, priority parking at shopping malls, even free charging.

The instant torque that is available when pressing the accelerator pedal will amaze owners of sports cars with a combustion engine. The Taycan derivatives are among the fastest in the present Porsche fleet and can be seen a culmination of 70 years of experience building sports cars.

Just like with every other Porsche model, one has to experience the driving performance and pure joy that comes from spending time behind the steering wheel. We will also tackle the range anxiety, which most first-time owners of an electric vehicle experience in the first weeks, through test drive campaigns and events.

We are convinced that the new Taycan fits into our model portfolio nicely and complements our other models by offering an electric alternative. Pricing will be confirmed closer to its launch but it will be competitive as a luxury sports saloon.

Read: AMEinfo Exclusive: Do you know what car brands think of electric vehicles?

3. Do you think there is a market for EVs in the Middle East right now?

The Middle East is on the same path as the rest of the world in looking for ways to reduce emissions, reduce our dependency on oil and to find a more sustainable balance. There has been the argument that cheaper petrol prices in our region compared to Europe may dilute the need to switch to EVs but I would suggest that the reason to go electric is not only about cheaper running costs but also about contributing to a cleaner environment. The Middle East is very proactive on that, particularly the UAE where the government is in the process of rolling out a public charging infrastructure for EVs and the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) is offering free public charging for private vehicles until December 31, 2021.

Dubai has 240 public charging stations fitted inside shopping malls, government and public offices, airports, government buildings, clinics, hospitals and residential buildings with a mandate that 10 per cent of all new cars on our roads will be either fully electric or hybrid by 2030. Other markets have plans to follow, so I believe I believe it is the right time to introduce our new Taycan and be amongst the first brands out there.

4. In your opinion, which Middle Eastern countries will be able to accommodate a fully electric vehicle like the Taycan?

Whether a country’s infrastructure is ready or not, it is always possible to charge your car from a wall mount at home for maximum convenience. Saying that, there is a concerted push from all the GCC countries to go green.

Jordan was an early adopter with incentives to introduce hybrid cars to the market early last decade that worked very well and they followed this up by being one of the first to look at an EV charging infrastructure.

Oman’s Authority for Electricity Regulation (AER) is in the process of rolling out a public charging infrastructure, Saudi Arabia installed its first high voltage public charging point in Riyadh last August that will charge a car in less than 30 minutes. It also announced a similar 2030 target as the UAE for the transition to electrified vehicles, while the UAE is working very hard in setting the guidelines I mentioned before for installing high voltage, fast charging stations across the Emirates.

Read: We were not ready to experience electric cars: Raw, but deceptive power

5. Many challenges in the MENA region exist today which hinder the full integration of an EV market. How do you think Arab countries can address these challenges, many of which relate to infrastructure, and what role could Porsche play in this?

There are probably fewer challenges in the Middle East compared to Europe and the US for example, as people here tend to either drive within the city and urban environments where charging points can be readily deployed and then fly to other parts of the region. In other markets, people drive long distances between cities, states and countries which require heavy investment to install charging points on rural motorways.

A reliable infrastructure network is key to getting people to use electric vehicles on a daily basis and the region is working on that but it’s not an overnight solution. If you look at “established” EV markets like California or Norway, it’s working but it has taken many years.

Manufacturers like Porsche are helping by installing our own charging facilities at dealerships and service centres and we are also constantly developing our own technology to improve the efficiency of our cars so that they can drive further between charges and eliminate range anxiety.

The Taycan 4S for example returns up to 463 kilometres with the Performance battery Plus (according to WLTP) from a single charge and nearly all of us live within 15 to 30 km of our office in built up urban areas like Dubai or Abu Dhabi. This means that customers would only need to charge their car once or twice a week,which is roughly about as often as they would stop at a petrol station.

6. What is Porsche’s EV strategy moving forward? Do you intend to release other EV models in the near future?

Taycan is our introduction to the EV market and there will be more from Porsche in the coming years. After Taycan we will introduce the Mission E Cross Turismo concept, followed by an electric version of the Macan, our compact SUV. It is expected that by 2025, half of all Porsche cars delivered globally will consist of either full-electric or plugin hybrid models, so there is a lot more to come on the electrification front from Porsche.

Read: EV vs. Internal Combustion Engine Vehicle: Why you should you make the switch to electric