The Porsche 99X Electric race car isn’t fantasy, but neither is it real life… yet
Sometimes things seem to line up symbiotically. Electrification is the buzzword in today’s automobile industry. In contrast to the easy fame electric cars have enjoyed, “esports” and professional digital gaming took some time to emerge from the dimly lit couch. Esports are under the radar no more, and, parallelling the craze with automotive electrification, have become successful enough that major automakers now sponsor teams and even entire tournaments. Purses for events are reaching seven figures. Clearly, gaming is not just about some guys escaping from the reality of living in their parents’ basements.
It’s not surprising, then, that Porsche introduced the 99X Electric, the car that will run under the Porsche name in the real-life 2019–20 FIA Formula E championship, through a digital simulation of the racer embedded in a livestream of the Formula E Unlocked video game.
During the event, Porsche factory drivers Neel Jani and André Lotterer had to be guided by gamers, who were watching from around the world, through a virtual representation of the Porsche Digital GmbH facility in Ludwigsburg, Germany, in order to find and unveil the racer.
“A different kind of car premiere,” Lotterer said. “I really enjoyed the fact that Neel and I acted as live players. It is fantastic that we are communicating with the digital target audience as equals and that they were able to be part of it.”
“It is great that Porsche is breaking new ground and involving the young, digital generation,” Jani added.
Slightly changing the tradition of giving Porsche race cars and two-seater sports cars three-digit names, like 917 or 911, the electric racer is going alphanumerical—designated 99X, with the X representing a look forward. The wild electric creation wears the traditional white, red, and black livery of Porsche motorsports.
Since the earliest days of the automobile industry, car companies have used racing as a developmental laboratory and proving ground for many technologies that were later applied to production vehicles. Porsche says the 99X Electric will serve as a development platform for its future production electric vehicles. Currently, Porsche has nothing to compete in the six-figure übercar market. Sooner or later, the company is bound to make an heir to the 918 Spyder hybrid—perhaps a pure BEV?
Formula E uses a spec chassis and battery pack, while the teams contribute their own electric drivetrains. The development of the electric racer’s powertrain was helped by Porsche’s experience building, racing, and winning with the 919 Le Mans Prototype hybrid race car. The 99X Electric will build on the 800-volt, permanent synchronous electric motor the Taycan electric production sports car uses, and Porsche hopes that future production cars will inherit what it learns about energy management and efficiency from the Formula E racer.
The TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team and the 99X Electric will be revealed in real life in October at Formula E’s official testing session at Valencia, Spain. The car’s first actual competition will be in Saudi Arabia this November.
While Porsche has had notable success with its LMP1 and sports car racing programs, the company’s Formula E effort will be the first time in more than three decades that Porsche will be competing with a single-seat racer. Porsche last competed in formula racing as an engine supplier for the 1991 Formula 1 season.
If you’d like to get a preview of the 99X Electric before the Valencia reveal, check out highlights of Formula E Unlocked at newstv.porsche.com.