Volkswagen Group’s Power Day had a fair number of surprises, from a gigantic investment in battery supply to a moment early on when Porsche CEO Oliver Blume came forward to talk about motorsport’s role in the companies’ electrification strategy. It was surprising not because you wouldn’t assume Porsche—whose sister-brand Audi is leaving Formula E—to have interest in motorsport but because the group has mostly turned against using it as a research and development hotbed. After all, VW announced in December it was quitting for good and dissolved its whole racing division.
In 2017, the effects of Dieselgate were still rippling through the German automaker section. Actually, that’s not quite true—maybe it was more that the first giant boulders had fallen into the pool and the full extent of the splash zone was getting easier to imagine. Under pressure, Porsche ditched its factory LMP1 program at the height of its success and announced a Formula E initiative at the same time that Audi confirmed it was taking over the ABT entry it’d had its badge on since the start of the championship. A few years on, Audi is leaving Formula E to go back to Le Mans and Porsche managed to get through an entire talk about the future of electrification in motorsport only mentioning that LMP1 car it last raced four years ago.
Some things are inevitable: death, press releases from Lordstown Motors, and a rumor cycle every six months claiming Porsche is thinking about entering Formula One. The last of those is because, effectively, it’s already done the work to develop the complex power units that F1 manufacturers have to contend with now, so it can play chicken for a few regulatory cycles yet. The same technology—straight out of LMP1, Porsche’s not wrong there—can go directly to electrification, with the car’s MGU-K a fully developed EV powertrain.
So it wasn’t at all untrue when Blume said, “The Le Mans-winning Porsche 919 provided a crucial basis for development of the all-electric Porsche Taycan. For the Taycan, we adopted the innovative 800-volt technology as well as the cooling concepts and virtual development methods, from our 919 LMP1 race car. This is all superior technology that successfully differentiates Porsche from the competition.”
Great, so they make road cars out of race cars. The only thing was, he went on to say, “Our electrified high-performance sports and racing cars place the highest demands on battery technology. To meet these demands, Porsche needs special high-performance cells. Our goal must be to ensure a permanent supply of high-performance cells that fully satisfy our specific requirements for future electrified race cars and electric super sports cars.”
Porsche currently has one electric factory motorsport effort and it’s Formula E, where the batteries are spec’d by the series. The Gen2 car’s current energy store is supplied by McLaren and Williams has won back the tender for Gen3, so it applies to not just the present but the future of the series as well. Formula E’s logic is that manufacturers are a long way off a battery war with most making their first forays into the technology. The series reckons that in order to control costs, it makes sense to have them develop powertrains and programming for efficiency while the batteries and chassis remain equal.
The same can be said for LMDh, the top-level sportscar prototype class Porsche’s committed to entering in 2023. It’ll be IMSA’s premier category that joins up with WEC’s Hypercar class to compete at Le Mans, but still, the cars will feature spec hybrid components that essentially rule Porsche out of testing its own battery tech.
Maybe that means Porsche, which went on to describe developing a silicon-anode battery for ultra-high performance in their sports cars, is about to unveil something new in motorsport terms. Like, for instance, an actual Formula One entry because it’s a little bit strange not to mention your electric motorsport program when you’re talking about how motorsport feeds into electrification.
The Drive reached out to Porsche to ask where this left its Formula E entry, to which a spokesperson replied: “VW Group’s Power Day was about innovative high-performance cell chemistry which is intended for future use in high-performance, limited-production-run cars and in customer motorsport.”
They continued, “Formula E is currently the most competitive environment for advancing the development of high-performance cars in terms of eco-friendliness, efficiency, energy consumption and sustainability, therefore, remains an important pillar within Porsche Motorsport.”
But where is Porsche taking its high-performance batteries? The ones that it’s going to test for future supercars? On Power Day, Blume foreshadowed something major: “Innovative high-performance batteries have great potential. We will test these innovations in motorsport.”
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