All Porsche models are born in the Weissach Development Center located on the outskirts of Stuttgart, a facility that extends over a hundred hectares and that inside hides great secrets.
Materialization of the idea
“We make ideas tangible,” goes the motto of the model making experts. In a first phase, it is simply a matter of showing the proportions of a future model, for which a wide variety of plastic materials are used. However, the first full display is always done with typical brown modeling clay. And this task is very relevant, since the aerodynamics of a car depends on it. For this reason, before the final approval of the design, the so-called flow bodies are used, where the gaskets, air inlets and outlets, wheel arches and other details correspond almost exactly to what will be their final state in series production. .
Sketches, whether on paper or digitally, are essential for developing ideas and quickly bringing them to a decision-making level. The two-dimensional drawing must be followed by a three-dimensional shape, first with the help of design software in virtual space and finally as a physical model. What’s more, the design studio doesn’t just create the shape of a body, it also devises interior spaces, ranging from the basic dimensions to the details of the seam of a seat.
Even within Weissach only a few employees know that since 1971 the company has had its own foundry in Hall 1, just behind the old main entrance. Every working day, at 1:30 p.m., the action begins: after melting, conditioning and checking the mixture of metals – called an alloy – it is molded. Metal melted at more than 700 degrees is fed into the sand molds. And it is that, for the most part, they are components for cars that do not yet exist. Thanks to in-house foundry, prototypes can be put to the test at a very early stage of development with components that meet the strict quality criteria of series production in all respects.
Front surface measurement
The goal of all aerodynamic development is for the air stream to flow perfectly through all corners of the body. The air resistance and, therefore, the fuel or energy consumption of the vehicle depend decisively on the frontal area. To determine this area with a deviation of just 1.5 per thousand, special equipment is required: the front surface measurement system. It works like a shadow theater: a light bar made up of green LED lights slowly travels twice across the front of the vehicle and, on a screen perfectly parallel to the rear of the car, the outline is shown. A video camera records the screen and a computer is responsible for joining all the images into one. From this last image, a computer program finally calculates the front surface.
From minus 40 degrees, as in the Arctic, to positive 90 degrees, as inside a car parked in Arizona. The temperatures that are reproduced in the Weissach chambers are anything but comfortable. But they are realistic, since during their lifetime, Porsche models may be subjected to them. For this reason, during development, each sports car has to endure these conditions several times in the room with climate control. And not only does it endure extreme temperatures, it must also pass additional endurance tests. For example, after spending an entire night at minus 18 degrees, a technician sprays the windows with water using a paint gun, and then starts the engine. After a set time, the windshield should be defrosted.
Powertrain test hall
There are more and more electric vehicles in Weissach. Half of the 18 test benches of the new ship that came into operation in 2019 are used to check engines and transmissions, with more or less electrification. One specialty is the high-voltage system test bench, on which the entire powertrain can be tested, i.e. the engines for the front and rear axles, the associated power electronics, the transmission and the future power bank. high voltage series. The battery is housed in a heated safety capsule below the test bench, and its capacity is checked with a few test cycles across the entire performance spectrum. Equally important is the behavior at the time of battery charging, especially when it comes to receiving and releasing a lot of current quickly. To do this, the new test hall is equipped with the various recharging technologies used in different parts of the world.
The so-called “test house” is not a house, but a place for electronic integration. However, this term is justified: under one roof, specialists test all electronics, from the windows to the driver assistance systems, to make sure they work perfectly. To make this possible, at an early stage, before the first prototype hits the road, the developers use test benches with hardware in the loop. The control unit and other components, such as the headlights or the steering wheel, are connected to a powerful computer the size of a cabinet. This computer simulates real driving for the control unit, including dangerous situations and driver reactions.
A big moment on the long road to series production is when the prototype can finally roll on its own wheels. There are currently more than 1,900 Porsche vehicles in development that are subject to varying degrees of camouflage and confidentiality standards. In Weissach they are divided into three levels: simple motor carriers, vehicles under construction and pre-series models. All are digitally registered. Those that require camouflage carry a transponder to enter the prototype parking lots. Employees who access them also need an electronically verified authorization.