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VW unveils battery-powered Porsche in Frankfurt

The world's biggest carmakers have made a fresh show of commitment to electric vehicles, with Volkswagen unveiling a battery-powered Porsche capable of travelling 500km on a single charge and refuelling to almost full in 15 minutes.

VW, the world's second-biggest carmaker by sales, opened the Frankfurt motor show by pledging to release at least 20 battery electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles by 2020, which would take its total green car range to around 30 vehicles by the end of the decade.

The new electric Porsche Mission E concept car is presented during the Volkswagen group night at the Fraport arena prior to the 66th IAA auto show in Frankfurt am Main, Western Germany, on September 14, 2015.
Odd Andersen | AFP | Getty Images
The new electric Porsche Mission E concept car is presented during the Volkswagen group night at the Fraport arena prior to the 66th IAA auto show in Frankfurt am Main, Western Germany, on September 14, 2015.

The moves are in part a response to tough emissions regulations set to bite in the coming years, with carmakers facing tough fines from Brussels if they fail to meet fuel economy targets in 2020.

Meanwhile the political rhetoric in Europe is moving away from a sole focus on carbon emissions to concerns about the effect of diesel fumes on air quality.

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"At a time of major social and technological upheaval, people expect new answers, new solutions and new directions," said Martin Winterkorn, VW chief executive.

One of those new directions could include Mission E, a new Porsche with the looks of a 911 sports car but the performance and environmental credentials of a Tesla Model S.

The 100 per cent electric Mission E boasts an 800-volt drive system, more than 600 horse power and is capable of more than 310 miles on a single charge.

Though it loses out to the Model S in terms of acceleration — doing 0-60mph in 3.5 seconds, versus less than 3 seconds for Tesla — the charging time is impressive. Porsche says it can reach an 80 per cent charge of electrical energy in only 15 minutes.

The car is only at the concept phase, but Porsche — which is owned by VW — said it would decide by the end of the year whether to bring the car into production.

VW also used its traditional eve-of-show party to display a similarly capable electric vehicle under its Audi brand. The e-tron quattro, teased several weeks ago, is a sport utility vehicle that can also do 310 miles and boasts no less than three electric motors.

Again, the car is only at the concept stage, but VW promises it will be delivered by early 2018.

"The Porsche Mission E and the Audi e-tron quattro concept are nothing less than a quantum leap for our industry," said Mr Winterkorn.

That quantum leap has been some time coming. Whether through lack of products or lack of consumer demand, the market for zero-emission vehicles has been painfully slow to take off. Battery electrics account for a less than 1 per cent of sales in most developed markets.

The two cars from VW are not mass-market entrants but a nod to the premium electric vehicle market so far colonised by Californian carmaker Tesla. The company, run by billionaire co-founder Elon Musk, is set to start shipping its Model X SUV at the end of this month, but will not show the car in Frankfurt.

VW's pledge came as Toyota set itself the target of doubling its hybrid sales in Europe by 2020.

The Japanese carmaker, the world's biggest by sales, is showing its new Prius model in Frankfurt and says it wants to double its European hybrid sales from a forecast 200,000 this year to 400,000 a year by the end of the decade.

"We want to double our volume of hybrids in the next five years, which is a huge increase," said Didier Leroy, Toyota's most senior non-Japanese executive.

Toyota has now sold 8m hybrid Toyotas and Lexuses worldwide – 1m of them in Europe.

The Japanese carmaker will also show a new C-HR concept, a "crossover" SUV with a hybrid option, in Frankfurt. It plans to introduce the final design of the car next year before deciding on formal production plans.