Porsche Introduces its New ‘Road-to-X Initiative' for the Servicing of Electric Vehicles With High-Voltage Batteries
Like most automakers, German sports car manufacturer Porsche plans to electrify its future model lineup. By 2025, half of all Porsche vehicles will be fully electrified with either a fully electric or plug-in hybrid powertrain. By 2030, Porsche expects the share of its vehicles with an all-electric powertrains will be more than 80%.
Handling and servicing these types of high-voltage electric vehicles will present its own set of challenges, so Porsche introduced a new multi-stage service concept called the "Road-to-X Initiative" for high-voltage batteries. The Porsche concept covers everything from the sourcing, manufacturing, sales, servicing, logistics and recycling.
At the start of its battery development process, Porsche says it's looking beyond traditional considerations linked to whether or not the component is feasible to produce. The development teams also make sure that the construction of its future vehicle battery packs are as simple as possible, so that it can be more easily repaired at Porsche Centers later in its life cycle.
The electric Porsche Taycan sedan, for example, has between 28 and 33 individual battery modules installed based on the different models offered. Porsche designed the battery housing so it can be diagnosed and opened by service trained technicians to allow the replacement of individual cell modules and other components.
Porsche says that enabling detailed repair options is also advantageous for customers from a price perspective. Rather than having to replace an expensive battery pack if something goes wrong, the individual models and other electronics are serviceable separately.
"The total battery capacity is determined by the worst cell – if a cell loses capacity, it limits the range," says Christian Brügger, Product Engineer in Porsche's Aftersales Electrics division. "We can detect a defective cell using the diagnostic tester in the workshop. For example, if the voltages don't match, we know which module needs to be replaced before the repair."
As part of Porsche's second-life battery recycling strategy, if any defective cell modules in one of its vehicles are still functional but no longer suitable for powering the vehicle they can be used for additional purposes. These batteries will be dismantled down to the module level and installed in stationary energy storage devices.
Working with its parent the Volkswagen Group and other partners, Porsche said it has made improvements to its existing recycling processes with the aim of increasing the proportion of raw materials in circulation and in order to re-use these materials in new battery production.
A concept for servicing all-electric Porsche vehicles has also been developed. For the company's first electric model the Taycan. The electric sedan has some very different service and repair needs compared to vehicles with combustion engines. Although tasks such as spark plug and oil changes no longer apply, repair work on electric vehicles requires expert training and speciality tools that Porsche Centers must obtain before they can offer these services to future customers.
Porsche's service concept for electric vehicles includes several stages which are specifically tailored for the handling of high-voltage battery repairs, including speciality tools for technicians that will be trained to safely repair electric vehicles.
Porsche is establishing cross-regional hubs at certain qualified centers, which will handle repairs on electric vehicles if there are no high-voltage service centers close by.
The Porsche Center that originally accepts the vehicle for repairs will take it to the dedicated high-voltage hub, where the work will be carried out by trained specialists before the vehicle is returned to the original service location.
If for some reason a Porsche vehicle cannot be transported, the automakers will deploy what it calls a "flying doctor" repair technician. These mobile high-voltage experts will be able to repair defective high-voltage batteries on site, according to Porsche.
Ahead of this, each Porsche electric vehicle service center will receive all the high-voltage tools and replacement parts required to complete the work.
Porsche has already made early efforts to enable full diagnostics for the Taycan. For example, details of the readout process were sent out to Porsche Centers at the beginning of March, enabling them to send it to customers.
Porsche also plans to offer an app solution that will allow its customers to check and monitor the health status of their vehicles from a smartphone.
Porsche says that the transition from combustion engines to electric powertrains is changing today's service business, especially in Porsche dealerships. So the company is preparing its dealers for this change, which is also designed to increase service loyalty and to boost productivity in its service facilities.
"Our dealers are the face we present to the customer and our brand ambassadors on the front line," says Daniel Schukraft, Vice President Aftersales and Customer Care at Porsche. "We are working intensively on a plan of action for our dealership organization to ensure that it is as well prepared for the age of electromobility as possible."
Servicing the 800-Volt Porsche Taycan
Servicing the electric Porsche Taycan presents its own set of challenges, as it's the first production vehicle with a 800-volt system architecture which requires specific training. The higher system voltage allows the Taycan to charge in just over five minutes for up to 100 additional kilometers of range (according to WLTP).
Porsche has defined three qualification levels for its service personnel; qualified electricians, high-voltage technicians and high-voltage experts. The know-how required to work high-voltage systems will be taught in specially coordinated training classes.
Qualified electricians have a basic qualification that allows them to perform standard repairs to high-voltage vehicles, such as changing the tires, cabin air filter or wiper blades. However, they must be briefed and supervised by a high-voltage technician when working on a high-voltage vehicle such as the Taycan.
High-voltage technicians will be trained to work on vehicles that have been disconnected from the voltage supply, and are familiar with classifying and storing lithium batteries. These technicians will also be qualified to remove and pack high-voltage batteries classified as ‘Normal' and ‘Warning'.
Porsche's high-voltage experts have the highest qualification level at Porsche Centers. They are the only people allowed to open up the high-voltage battery modules with faults and prepare and pack them for transportation.
"We offer the qualification as a high-voltage technician as part of a train-the-trainer approach," says Stefan Schierle, HV Trainer at Porsche Aftersales. "Local market trainers in the respective country qualify the high-voltage technicians at Porsche Centers."
Porsche currently only trains its high-voltage experts centrally at the on-site training center at Porsche. However, from 2022 onwards, the automakers plan to decentralize the training by establishing eight new training locations worldwide.
To further improve the servicing of Porsche vehicles, the automaker recently announced a new concept called the "digital chassis twin", which can be used for predictive driving functions and the status of a vehicle's components.
The concept involves embedding sensors deep in the vehicle, including in the chassis, that can determine if it's operating normally, while also identifying mechanical or electrical issues that require attention.
Creating a virtual copy of an existing object (in this case a vehicle), allows for data-driven analysis, monitoring and diagnostics without the challenges and constraints of real-world tests, according to Porsche.
The so-called "digital twin" of a vehicle comprises not only the operating data it collects but also any related data, such as information collected during planned maintenance work and unexpected repairs. Porsche says that some elements of this digital twin already exist in ECUs and in the databases maintained at Porsche service centers.
A major benefit of the digital twin concept is that the "digital twins" can be networked and vehicle and its data combined with a centralized AI-powered intelligence system that can determine if any vehicle on the network is operating at its peak, both mechanically and electrically.
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