Mr. Reimold, will combustion engines still be made in 2050?
Abrecht Reimold: Based on everything I've seen thus far, the answer is a clear yes. Here at Porsche we adopted a clear and sustainable product strategy years ago. It's based on the three pillars of fuel-efficient combustion engines, low-emission hybrid models and all-electric vehicles. Low-emission technologies are playing an ever-greater role. Combustion engines still have a lot of potential when it comes to meeting stricter environmental regulations.
At Porsche, too?
Reimold: Also and especially at Porsche. In five years, half of all new Porsche cars will have an electric motor – either as a hybrid vehicle or an all-electric sports car. We're assuming a pioneering role in the technology here. However, different parts of the world are developing in very different ways with respect to electric mobility and how they're expanding the relevant infrastructure. So we're also working on innovative solutions such as sustainably produced synthetic fuels. These will be ready for the market in the next five years. According to experts, these e-fuels will be able to save millions of tonnes of carbon every year.
What does that mean for the future range of products?
Reimold: Porsche will become more electric, but not entirely so. The 911 will not be available with an all-electric drive. Over the next five years we'll be investing around 15 billion euros in electric mobility, sustainable production, and the digital transformation
So the course has been set for the future – are there specific goals that have been formulated?
Reimold: The greatest challenges of our time are also opportunities. The Porsche Strategy 2030 states that we will become even more sustainable and that we are serious about our responsibility to society. Enthusiasm is one of our most powerful drivers. Porsche will continue to be the brand for people who follow their dreams.
Why is sustainability so important to you now?
Reimold: Sustainability is a key component of our strategy. It is important for us to take a holistic view of this issue – economically, ecologically and socially. Our approach is based on six fields of action, including decarbonisation, diversity and transparent supply chains. We'll be incorporating these fields into all of our future activities. In concrete terms we support the Paris climate goals and, as an example, we're working to make production at all our sites carbon neutral. That's been the case at Zuffenhausen since the beginning of last year and Leipzig will follow this year.
Porsche is a pioneer in sustainable mobility. Which of the brand's traditional values serve as guides for the future?
Reimold: Porsche took clear action early on with its long-term warranties and its emissions and safety technology. Recyclability and long service lives have always been important to us – and to our customers. Porsche introduced fully galvanised bodies back in the mid-1970s. And we're very proud of the number of all Porsche cars ever produced that are still being driven. What could be more sustainable than a decades-old car that still thrills the owner?
The Taycan is very innovative, as is its production. How would you judge the results so far?
Reimold: Positive in all respects. The Taycan is one of the most ambitious projects Porsche has ever attempted. We built an entirely new plant at our main factory site. We put completely new and innovative production processes into place. We created around 2,000 new jobs and ran an intensive training programme. And despite all the difficulties we had to deal with in addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, we were able to surpass our original target of 20,000 vehicles sold. The Taycan is a fascinating car and it arrived at the right time.
Now it's the Cross Turismo's turn. What experience from the Taycan's production can be used to enhance this project?
Reimold: Automotive production right now is a combination of hardware and software, and that's especially true for electric cars. The new Cross Turismo is no exception. As the first derivative of the Taycan, it's not a completely new entity so we don't have to reinvent the wheel. Instead, what we've done in large part is to identify the details that could be done better. To make it more fuel-efficient and more typically Porsche.
Both the Taycan and the Taycan Cross Turismo are made with innovative production methods, or what is known as Production 4.0. What are its special features?
Reimold: The most obvious feature is surely the fact that we've replaced the traditional conveyor line with driverless transport systems. They use a flow principle to transport the Taycan and now the Cross Turismo automatically from station to station. We call it a flexi-line, and it opens up new opportunities: we can modify production at any time, integrate improvements, or run bypasses to do things like accommodate special customer wishes.
Are you planning to apply these production methods to other model series and utilise them throughout the corporate group?
Reimold: The term ‘revolution’ is often heard in connection with Porsche's Production 4.0. What we're actually doing is continuing to develop what we had already done in the past with lean methods, automation, and virtual product and production planning. It's important to recognise that our focus continues to be on people. We depend on highly qualified and skilled employees. Digitalisation helps us design our work environments in more ergonomic ways, and it also aids in analysing complex processes. Our smart factory concept doesn't just focus on compiling data in certain areas. We're also looking at how entire process segments can be analysed for their efficiency potential and how the requisite quality can be assured. Here we're working closely together with colleagues from throughout the corporate group on our digital production platform (DPP).
Your overarching goal is to achieve the Zero Impact Factory. What are the main steps involved?
Reimold: Sustainability is the sum of many individual parts. I'd compare it to a jigsaw puzzle. Production of the Taycan in Zuffenhausen has been carbon neutral right from the start, and since early 2020 that has also been true for the 911 and 718 models. Our vision of the Zero Impact Factory is one in which the environmental footprint is reduced to a minimum. We've already defined clear guidelines for this. It’s important to take an overall approach. That means considering not just our own production processes but also the entire life cycle of our cars, from material production to recycling processes.
Porsche has reduced its carbon emissions in production and logistics by more than 75 per cent per vehicle since 2014. What will go into reducing that even further?
Reimold: A lot of passion, attention to detail, and persuasion. We're already using 100 per cent renewable energy in some areas. And all our rail transport is climate neutral thanks to renewable power. In Zuffenhausen we're generating heat from carbon-neutral combined heat and power units that run on biogas. As you can see, it's like a big puzzle – we've got an endless supply of ideas and no lack of desire to put them into practice.
When will Porsche actually achieve its Zero Impact Factory?
Reimold: We're well on our way. We have a very concrete itinerary in terms of both time and content. Each of the many interim goals bring us one step closer to carbon neutrality.
What role does carbon neutrality play in producing the components – especially the battery cells?
Reimold: Our efforts to lower carbon emissions take the entire process chain into account. So we've developed contractual requirements for producers of the Taycan's high-voltage battery cells. We're also assessing how to do that in other areas. It's clear that a high level of external value creation is responsible for a relatively high percentage of our carbon emissions. This makes us dependent on close relations and cooperation with our partners and suppliers.
What makes the Taycan a sustainable car?
Reimold: Back in the development stage for new models, we place a special emphasis on lightweight construction, aerodynamics, and recyclability. We design our construction methods to use as little energy as possible. Moreover, we've now started to use renewable raw materials in places like the door panels. And the floor liners are made of a recycled fibre that's produced from substances like discarded fishing nets.
Is sustainability a relevant criterion in the sports-car sector in general?
Reimold: More so than ever. Our customers are as concerned about their environmental footprint as we are. People are becoming ever more conscious of this issue. Many are placing a premium on careful and sustainable use of natural resources. We can no longer rely on providing only superior dynamism and performance.
“We can no longer rely on providing only superior dynamism and performance.” Albrecht Reimold
But can a sports car serve as an example for other vehicles?
Reimold: Here, too, the answer is a definite yes. Fuel efficiency is one of the key properties of sports-oriented cars. That will always make us both a pioneer and an example when it comes to efficient technologies. For instance, take the hybrid technology we used successfully in racing before introducing it to series production. Also, technology that works well in the high-end sector generally finds its way into other classes of vehicles. We've set our course at Porsche to play a pioneering role in technology, and are rigorously focusing the company on mobility for the future.
Are cars an opportunity or a risk for the climate?
Reimold: No more or less so than any other products of our civilisation. Individual means of mobility meet one of the basic needs of our highly interconnected world. Now more than ever, we’re reflecting on what's really important in life. We're questioning old patterns of behaviour and concentrating on essentials. Everyone can benefit from that. Electric mobility in particular can benefit here, and take a big step forward. But it's also important to maintain a variety of mobility systems in the future and to take individual needs into account. Many people dream of having their own car. And we at Porsche will do everything to fulfil their desire in ways as compatible with the climate as possible.
Text first published in Porsche magazine Christophorus, No. 398.