Porsche showcases potential future of EV motorsport

There’s something special about arriving at a Porsche dealership for a closed door event. When the car you’ve been granted access to is the 718 Cayman GT4 e-Performance racer, that excitement shifts up a gear.

And so we found ourselves at Porsche Centre Sydney South, where positioned centre stage, surrounded by customer cars including a GT3 RS and Dakar 911, was the aforementioned fully electric race car.

Based on the Clubsport variant, the e-Performance is a sneak peak into an EV racing future. Capable of peak power of up to 735kW, and currently being tested around the globe, this one-of-a-kind prototype can maintain a constant 450kW for up to 30 minutes.

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That means there’s a genuine potential for its use in a one-make sprint series or at hill climb events. Thanks to its 900-volt battery technology, it can charge to 80 per cent in just 15 minutes, meaning normal race event breaks would allow it to return to full charge.

Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 e-Performance prototype
Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 e-Performance prototype

While the prototype will never be for sale, it is certainly providing plenty of data for a future race car. Fitted with permanent all-wheel drive, and tipping the scales at less than 1,550kg, it has a direct oil cooling system built into the e-motors and battery pack.

Developed by Porsche, the system counteracts thermally induced derating of the electric drive system. This means that the power output in racing mode remains constant, while intelligent technology also generates electrical energy to feed into the battery.

In the flesh, the car is pure automotive excellence. Everything from its futuristic headlights and blue taillights, to its matte black exterior surfaces have been designed with a purpose. The flared wheel arches allow for room for the wider 18-inch racing tyres too.

About 6,000 parts were designed from scratch, in a test vehicle that has been developed to embrace sustainable racing. The body includes natural fibre composite materials, with production intended to generate lower emissions than comparable synthetic materials.

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Inside the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 e-Performance prototype

Renewable materials make up a particularly high proportion of the Michelin rubber. GT4 e-Performance project manager Bjorn Forster, who was on hand at the event, explained the one thing you won’t find is pretend noises.

Asked if there was anything he would have liked to see on the car that didn’t make it, he joked “speakers to add that engine note, that passion!”. We’re glad the engineers decided that speakers were too heavy to include in a vehicle that’s designed for maximum attack.

Experts in the fields of aerodynamics and thermodynamics, as well as high-voltage and bodywork specialists, helped design the vehicle’s architecture to tap the full potential of the battery cells.

A different beast to an internal combustion powered race car, the GT4 e-Performance will require different driving techniques, with no need for engine braking to turn into corners. Instead, maximum stop pedal use will help “refuel” the battery.

Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 e-Performance prototype
Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 e-Performance prototype

EV power brings another consistency too, as the battery cells and electric motor maintain cool, ideal operating temperatures no matter where it’s being raced. Impressively, the test team is yet to record any charge loss in the batteries either, despite rigorous testing.

Porsche’s goal is to have fully electric race cars like the GT4 e-Performance racing alongside their combustion engine counterparts, with only driver ability and vehicle technique determining the winner. What that might look like, is yet to be determined.

Motorsport Australia is currently working on the various technical and safety requirements necessary for EV racing, but the main hurdle for the German car maker in getting beyond the prototype stage, is road car relevance.

When we have a fully electric Porsche Cayman GT rolling around the streets, that’s when you can expect to visit the track and see them there too. Having got up close and personal with the race car, and seeing what it’s capable of, we can’t wait.

Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 e-Performance prototype
Seat time in the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 e-Performance prototype

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