Touching down at YLW in Kelowna BC, a quick 52-minute flight from my home base in Alberta’s capital,i my familial travel companions and I were greeted by a black Maserati SUV waiting just past the baggage carousel at the Arrivals door. Just the bit of misdirection I was hoping for.
Had I bought a Mazer? Or what? They hadn’t the faintest clue, nor, it must be admitted, were they even that inquisitive about it. They were just happy to join me for our first boys’ trip together in five years. Gliding away from the regional airport, and unbeknownst to my father and younger brother, we were headed Porsche Centre Kelowna where my new-to-me electric buggy awaited.ii There, in the middle of the showroom, sparkling like nearby Sparkling Hills, was the well-optioned Taycan 4S that I was impulsively adding to my garage.iii
After a few minutes of paperwork, my backpack was in the frunk, and I was in the driver’s seat, nursing the low-slung sports sedan through the sliding glass doors of the dealership, incognito and sans license plate, back from whence we came.iv A quick photo opp, a minute fiddling with menus and mirrors, and off we went in sumptuous serenity towards our first charging point, 348km away, in Golden BC.
Three-hundred-and-forty-eight kilometres might seem like an inconsequential journey for a vehicle that showed 498km of range as we left the dealership, but from my past experience in the Tesla Model X on a highway trip, and adding the X-factor of elevation, colder temperatures, snowy roads, and additional passenger weight, I knew that we didn’t have a kWh to spare. Brushing off my best hypermiling skills from 15-years-ago, back when I was a frugal student squeezing out 600km+ between fill-ups from my rust-prone Protege5, I plunked the Porsche in “Range” mode and we set off in the first ever FWD P-car,v henceforth known affectionately as “Sparky.”vi
Lest my first lengthy road trip in an ‘leccy whip involve waiting for a flatbed trailer on a narrow-to-non-existent highway shoulder on a winding mountain pass in the middle of a moon-lit, snow-blanketed forest with semi-truck trailers whizzing past, I was content to embrace the 110kph speed limit enforced by “Range” mode, as well as lowered ride height and “Eco Plus” air-con setting. My feet were a little on the cool side but I didn’t mind. It reminded me of driving my old 560SEL on the highway, barely five years ago. My modest sacrifice was about to pay off too. Because with 90km to go until Golden, we had just 110km of range.vii It looked for all the world like we were juuuust going to make it.
Then, of course, came my first encounter with the demon known as “Range Anxiety”viii as the uphill mountain road to end all uphill mountain roads starting eating dangerously large chunks out of our range estimates. Before we knew it, we have 80km to go and only 80km of range. WTFBBQ!!! With the ambient temperature hovering just below 0°C and with range-oriented Goodyear Eagle Touring all-season tires equipped, the road/car conditions were as optimal as they were going to be for late October in the Rocky Mountains, but could the sedan from Zuffenhausen be about to meet its match? Just when I thought that EV tech had finally made the leap from being narrowly useful for some people some of the time (eg. Nissan Leaf) to a more optimistic world-beater (with just a little extra planning), it looked like the Taycan was all but doomed to fail. And I couldn’t even entirely blame it! With its low-mounted radar sensor covered in dirt, salt, and snow and rendered inoperable for the last 80km,ix it was just yours truly and the throttle pedal left to judge the nearly pitch-black and slightly slick conditions.x With each uphill kilometre travelled, we lost 2-3 kilometres of range. Then, with 70km to go and 60km of range remaining, as we stared down both barrels of perilous
misfortune miscalculation, the seemingly relentless ascent suddenly denouedxi into descent. Over the next 20km, we used only 5km of range as I turned the regenerative braking on and we juiced up the 93.4kW battery for all the electrons it was worth.
Coasting confidently into Golden just before 7pm, we pulled up to the Petro-Canada station featuring a newly installed EV Fast Charger. With a 200kWh speed limit and 7% battery remaining,xii our 800V steed charged up pretty effortlessly while we walked across the parking lot to Tim Horton’s for a bowl of chilli and a bathroom break. Thirty-odd minutes and a very reasonable C$9.99 later, we had 70% charge and more than enough juice to make it the next 140km to Banff, where we planned to charge overnight at our hotel. Arriving at the Fairmont Banff Springs and parking in one of the “EV stalls,”xiii we realised that we needed a Tesla-to-J1772 adapter, which we didn’t have, but it was after 10pm and we had more than enough range to make it to Canmore the next morning, so we checked in and headed straight to the newly renovated Rundle Lounge. We cracked a couple bottles of Moet and took part in a few rounds of “We’re Not Really Strangers” before retiring to our separate rooms. After 600km of flying and 500km of driving, we’d made it through the toughest and most uncertain part of our journey.xiv We were pretty beat. But we did it!
Day Twoxv began at 6:45am for yours truly, which was more than two hours before my sleepy-headed travel partners, but I took advantage of the extra time to catch up on neglected work emails from the day before. Checking out of the hotel around 10am, we walked back to the parkade, threw our bags in the frunks and trunks,xvi and headed for Canmore, about 20 minutes away. Plugging into the 350kW CCS fast charger at the Petro-Can just off Highway 1, my younger brother and I left the car and walked towards the Rocky Mountain Bagel Co. for breakfast and a stretch of the ol’ legs. My father stayed behind at the Petro-Can/McDonald’s.
Returning an hour or so later, we had 98% charge, probably enough to make it the full 400km back to Edmonton but I hadn’t heard any updates from my electricians so I didn’t know if I’d be able to charge at home upon return.xvii To play it safe, we set our sights on the Petro-Can station at CrossIron Mills just north of Calgary. Since my bladder is the size of an acorn anyways, that 90-minute jaunt would be well-timed, so off we went in “Sport Plus” mode just to make sure that the 4S was the right choice after all and that I shouldn’t have splurged harder on the Turbo. After the first hard launch, I had no regrets! It’s as trite to compare an electric sports car to a rollercoaster as it is to compare a regular sports car to a go-kart, but unlike the latter comparison, the former is actually apt!
Before we knew it, we were at the entirely unphotogenic CrossIron, plugged in, back up to 75% battery, and on the road again with 280km to go. A quick stop at the halfway point in Red Deer for ice cream, then another 120km to the south end of Edmonton to pick up my Jeep at YEG airport,xviii and just like that were right where we started 32 hours earlier, and with 150km of range to spare.xix
With bodies in respectable shape, legs and backs all present and accounted for with no serious injuries to report,xx the air-suspension’d limo dressed up as an “electric sports sedan” crushed its maiden voyage under my ownership. Only my slightly sore forearms betrayed the Porsche’s typically direct steering and gave it away as anything other than a pure luxury car. (Unlike my old LS460L, there was no one-finger steering here.)
And that’s all for this travelogue!xxi Turns out electrification is closer than we thought, and more fun too, so here’s to many more miles of emissions-reduced motoring.xxii C’mon Sparky! In the other four driving modes, the rear wheels provide the lion’s share of the thrust. ↩ FWIW, on the first go, the 50kW home charging system “filled the tank” with 74.8kWh, or about C$12.39 worth, in 9h06m. Given that I rarely leave the house before lunchtime (sleep ad libitum!), this arrangement all but guarantees that I’ll never have to charge anywhere but home unless I’m taking Sparky on a road trip. You might also be interested to know that electricity rates in Alberta are ostensibly cheap, like bitcoin-mining-cheap, in the range of 4.827¢/kWh, but all the usual monopolistic utility co. bullshit cranks the rate up to an effective 16.566¢/kWh rate for lowly residential consumers like yours truly. Still, it’s better than Petro-Can, which charges 33¢/kWh, though that’s not an unreasonable price given the 4-7x speed vs. residential set-ups. Still, maybe solar isn’t such a terrible workaround? ↩
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In the other four driving modes, the rear wheels provide the lion’s share of the thrust. ↩
FWIW, on the first go, the 50kW home charging system “filled the tank” with 74.8kWh, or about C$12.39 worth, in 9h06m. Given that I rarely leave the house before lunchtime (sleep ad libitum!), this arrangement all but guarantees that I’ll never have to charge anywhere but home unless I’m taking Sparky on a road trip.
You might also be interested to know that electricity rates in Alberta are ostensibly cheap, like bitcoin-mining-cheap, in the range of 4.827¢/kWh, but all the usual monopolistic utility co. bullshit cranks the rate up to an effective 16.566¢/kWh rate for lowly residential consumers like yours truly. Still, it’s better than Petro-Can, which charges 33¢/kWh, though that’s not an unreasonable price given the 4-7x speed vs. residential set-ups. Still, maybe solar isn’t such a terrible workaround? ↩
The most incredible ride quality I’ve ever experienced. Even on 21″ rubber band tires, it literally floated across the ground. Primary and secondary ride on air suspension were utterly superlative. Like RR Ghost good. Super low CoG. Handles with remarkable precision. Doesn’t feel huge by any stretch but the rear 3/4 view is sharply limited given the size of the vehicle so the driver needs to be mindful of traffic. Sit quite low but don’t feel intimidated by other vehicles. Gas/diesel-powered vehicles belching exhaust fumes seemed utterly primitive and polluting by comparison. Felt like the first iPhone, making previous phones seem barbaric. There’s no going back. I could care less about Tesla’s charging infrastructure. I can charge this thing once a week at home. The G-Wagon is just too useful as a family hauler to send packing, but the seventh letter feels like an absolute tractor by comparison. How have I tolerated such insipidly truckish ride quality for so long? I could honestly live with the Taycan and a minivan. The Porsche rides like a dream, like a saturated sponge soaking up the road. Even River Valley Road was ironed out into the background. Like the LS500 and S550 should’ve. Like the Phaeton did, but without feeling as mechanically and electronically fragile as the VW. Front visibility is excellent. Sound deadening isn’t bad but the acoustic glass and smaller tires would be a good idea. 19″ wheels would be cool but 20s are probably a fair compromise between aesthetics, range, and ride quality. I’ll get the 19s for winter. Very quiet overall around town and on the highway. The additional Jetsons sound effects are cool sometimes but not for very long. The motors sound plenty cool enough on their own. The Bose sound system was surprisingly poor. I’m don’t exactly identify as an audiophile but I guess the G’s Burmester has spoilt me. I could live with the Bose though. The dark-coloured interior and dark-coloured exterior do the compact design zero favours though. Silver Dolomite is the exterior colour to have along with a non-black interior. The all-glass roof is sexy af. ACC works a million times better than the G’s. The 0.22 Cd and lack of “one pedal driving” is immediately apparent. The thing just wants to coast, meaning that more braking is required when regen is turned off, but I kinda liked that. The 4S is plenty fast for the streets. It doesn’t melt your face but it’s certainly exciting enough. Turbo/Turbo S would just be silly. The reviews from Matt Farah and Chris Harris back this contention up.