Yesterday’s Porsche Taycan launch should have been a monumental event for the EV industry. The top performance carmaker in the world unveiled its new flagship automobile and it is fully electric. Porsche has tons of orders, is putting its marketing might behind it and frankly, it is a damn fine automobile. Send us one… to test!

However, moments after the vehicle launched you could already hear the grumbling from Tesla fans and spec junkies. Porsche’s flagship sports car doesn’t even match Tesla’s luxury sedan in important metrics like acceleration, top speed, and range even though it can only be had at a steep price premium.

Porsche actually built a 2-speed transmission and still couldn’t beat the top speed or acceleration of a Tesla sedan and the range isn’t even close?

If Porsche can’t match Tesla’s sedan specs in a sports car with limited interior space, then what hope do other carmakers have?

I can already hear the calls of “Tesla fanboy says what” and yes the Porsche will likely beat a Tesla on a few laps at the track due to its superior battery cooling and transmission. Porsche certainly smoked everyone else at the Nürburgring.

Its interior and exterior will also appeal to a lot of folks that are turned off by Tesla’s more spartan interior and more sedan-like outer appearance. But from a powertrain standpoint, I have to wonder if Tesla’s lead is too great in electric vehicles for others to compete.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently quipped that no one had yet beaten the 2012 Tesla Model S and in a lot of ways that car is pretty impressive.  It had an EPA range of 265 miles (NEDC 312 miles) and could go 0-60 in 5.4 seconds on 380 horsepower. Oh, and it looked pretty hot and could seat up to 7 with the rear jump seats.

 

Range-wise, the Porsche Taycan is the only car to come close to the 2012 Model S 265/312 mile range and it has next to nothing in interior space. Jaguar and Audi which have more robust interiors were barely able to eclipse 200 miles of EPA range while Chevy and Kia/Hyundai have now gotten into the 240-250s with their smaller more efficient cars.

But that was 2012. Since then, Tesla has furiously iterated its top-end car while also going back to the drawing board with the lower-priced, hyper-efficient Model 3. The only EV that slightly edges out the Model 3 in efficiency is Hyundai’s Prius-like Ioniq.

The Model S and 3 both have range into the mid 300s on the EPA rating and the Long Range Ludicrous Model S (P100D) goes to 60 in under 2.4 seconds. Tesla’s Roadster will supposedly go below 2 seconds and do a quarter-mile in under 10 seconds. No production car is going to touch that.

But Tesla is 5 years ahead of the EV competition in other areas too.

Charging/network

One area that Porsche wins… sort of… is charging speed. 270kW vs. Tesla’s 250kW Model 3 and 200kW Model S/X. The difference is that you can actually find a Tesla fast charger. And it is probably under 100 miles away. You can count the 270kW-capable CCS Combo chargers on a hand or two – at least in the US.

Then there’s the charging network. I think Tesla is five years out in front of everyone else, first identifying the need to even have a fast-charging DC capabilities and network before others were even designing EVs. Tesla’s network is extensive and most drivers can go anywhere a gas car can go, in almost as little time.

Compare that with the rest of the EV industry who are relying on a mishmash of other networks that they don’t control. Electrify America seems like the frontrunner in the US but its stations are just being deployed now in major corridors that Tesla has been in for years (for example, the 5 between Los Angeles and San Francisco).

Also, 3rd party charging networks have different business models than carmakers. They would rather put up chargers in cities and where subsidized, not between cities where they are needed. They also break down more often in my experience and usually, there are fewer chargers per station. They also often cost a lot of money, take longer to initiate and don’t charge at the advertised rates.

Battery supply

Tesla realized long ago that it needed to own the battery supply chain lest its production be limited to the whims of the battery market supply chain. Other makers are just now feeling the crunch as fluctuating battery supply and prices are causing limited production opportunities. Third-party battery supply may improve but Tesla doesn’t have to worry about that. This allowed Tesla to go to 2170 cells sooner.

Other intangibles: Autopilot, OTA updates, no car dealers, etc.

Tesla doesn’t just have the best electric powertrain and charging network by far. It has a bunch of other intangibles that put it years ahead of the competition. Here’s an off the top of my head list:

  • No car dealers – like everyone else, I’ve had horrible experiences at car dealerships. I don’t want to play the haggling game. I know cars better than they do.
  • Autopilot. I don’t yet trust it to drive me everywhere on its own and I don’t believe Elon Musk’s timeline for Full Self Driving but as a traffic-aware cruise control, it works fabulously. Both in traffic and on long trips it lightens the cognitive load significantly and makes driving much nicer.
  • App. Other carmakers have since caught up with Tesla’s connected car app functionality but Tesla’s is still the best.
  • Tesla displays are upgradable so even the 2012 car gets updates that make it look like a 2020 interior interface.
  • The Model 3’s spartan interior is polarizing but I love it, particularly at night. There are no lights on the steering wheel and no dashboard meaning there’s nothing between your eyes and the road. I think in 5 years, more car interiors will be designed like this.
  • I could go on and on here. More things are coming even if Tesla’s Uber service Network doesn’t materialize.

Tesla isn’t perfect but it is still far ahead in specs

Tesla has problems. Big problems. The company isn’t great at managing capital and human resources. The quality of its cars could improve quite a bit. The company always seems to be in crisis mode and counts the fossil fuel industry, automakers/car dealers, and lots of journalists as enemies.

But as far as its technology goes, it is still so far ahead, it has to be intimidating for other companies to launch their first car into Tesla’s domain.

Which brings us back to Porsche. Specs-wise, you wouldn’t necessarily expect Audi or Jaguar (or Mercedes with its new EQC) to beat Tesla’s specs in their first effort. But they weren’t even close. Even Tesla’s Model X has almost 50% more range and is multiple seconds faster to 60mph than either vehicle.

Porsche is left to touting things where it will have advantages over Tesla-like service/support and “driving pleasure.” It even made up some new hyper niche contests  like “30 0-124mph launches in a row” or “0-90-0 on an aircraft carrier”.

Those mostly intangibles will be big for many current Porsche drivers and will certainly bring in new EV drivers. For that and for making this car, Porsche should be applauded.

Tesla is farther ahead in EVs than it is given credit

I think the short case for Tesla here, however, is proven wrong. Shorts say that any automaker can just put a bunch of off the shelf EV parts in their current cars and make them on the same production line and make a Tesla killer. Tesla’s 15 years of intense EV focus hasn’t created any moats to protect it from competition.

That’s clearly not the case and if anything Porsche proved that yesterday.

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