FRANKFURT • Porsche is making a leather-free version of its new Taycan electric sports car in the latest attempt by a German automaker to play up green credentials as environmental activists lobby for a boycott of the industry.
Last month, a climate activist group smashed up 40 luxury vehicles and called for a boycott of this month's Frankfurt Auto Show because it celebrates an "outmoded climate and environment destroying transportation system".
Porsche, part of Volkswagen, said on Wednesday it would invest €6 billion (S$9.1 billion) through 2022 to develop electric vehicles, as it presented its first zero-emissions sports car.
"With the Taycan, Porsche offers an entirely leather-free interior for the first time. Interiors made from innovative recycled materials underscore the sustainable concept of the electric sports car," Porsche said.
The Taycan has a range of 450km, making it the first electric vehicle from a German carmaker capable of rivalling Tesla in terms of operating range. Thanks to an 800-volt system, the car is also capable of adding 100km to its range from a five-minute recharging of its battery, Porsche said.
The Porsche Taycan Turbo S is priced at €185,456. First customer deliveries are anticipated from January next year.
For its global unveiling, Porsche picked Niagara Falls, a Chinese wind farm and a solar site in Germany to stage its first all-electric sports car, underscoring the new Taycan's central role in turning parent Volkswagen company into the world's leading seller of battery-powered vehicles.
After a bumpy start for sister brand Audi's e-Tron, the Taycan, with the top Turbo S version priced at US$185,000 (S$256,000), is for the time being the flag-carrier in VW's massive drive to unseat e-car pioneer Tesla.
The wraps came off on Wednesday at simultaneous events in its three biggest markets.
"It's a true Porsche," the brand's chief executive officer Oliver Blume said at the German event. "But it's different than anything we built in the past 70 years. Porsche is positioning itself for a sustainable future."
Despite being the world's largest carmaker, VW has struggled to slow Tesla's march. The debut of the e-Tron, a challenger to the Model X sport utility vehicle, was marred by delays and a recall.
Tesla chief Elon Musk has stretched downmarket with the lower-priced Model 3, which started selling in Europe this year and is about to begin production in China.
Porsche is rolling out higher-priced versions of the Taycan first, starting with Turbo S and the US$150,900 Turbo. The base version of the car is expected to be below US$100,000 and a Gran Turismo derivative will start sales at the end of next year.
The car will generate a "good margin", starting with the top-end versions, Mr Blume said in an interview with Bloomberg TV. Returns will not be as high as for other models "but this is a start for e-mobility".
The Taycan, boasting technical superlatives such as ultra-fast charging, and the mass-market VW ID.3 will be on display at next week's Frankfurt auto show and are slated to start production later this year, leading VW's push to produce battery-powered cars across all price segments.
The Taycan "is a turning point for Porsche and the industry as it raises the technical bar for electric vehicles beyond Tesla", Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Michael Dean wrote in a report.
At last count, the Taycan had attracted about 30,000 deposits. The car is partly financed by a €1 billion green Schuldschein promissory note, the first for a carmaker. It may quickly outsell the iconic 911.
Half of deliveries will be all-electric or hybrid by 2025, Mr Blume said. The car will go head to head with Tesla's ageing Model S, after Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar and Audi opted for sport utility vehicles to kick-start their electric-car offerings.
The Stuttgart, Germany-based VW picked the three Taycan event locations to showcase sources of green energy. While carmakers gradually move towards battery-powered cars, the energy used to charge them often still comes from non-renewable sources like coal plants.
Porsche has seen promising sales of plug-in hybrid versions of existing models like the Panamera four-door coupe, with more than half of customers in Europe going for partially emissions-free options.
It is installing fast chargers at dealerships in the US and Europe. VW is also participating in Ionity, which is rolling out a network of high-speed charging points across European highways.
The Taycan can recharge 100km in four minutes and has a range of 450km. That compares with a reach of 610km for the Model S 100D fitted with the biggest battery.