Vonnen has an alternative 911.
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First off, a note of disappointment, the system will not allow the car to operate completely on electricity, not even for a couple of miles. This is an opportunity missed, especially as we expect cities across the globe to become even stricter on air pollution in the coming years. When I heard that this could be fitted to Porsches as old as 2009 the thought of Londoners, New Yorkers, and Berliners with a passion for driving, and a 997 GT3 in the garage sprung to mind. At last, there was a way to ensure the future drivability of their pride and joy with a modest 80kg net weight penalty, essentially the weight of a passenger. Just enough range to crawl out of the city, and a boost in pace when long-legged pace is needed. A question lingers over whether you would want the additional boost the Vonnen battery provides in cars that have built their reputation on making the user squeeze the power out rather than deliver immediate gratification. This is resolved with an on/off app which means you can stop the system operating and use just combustion power. A result of some trick engineering that we will go into at the end.
The purpose of Vonnen’s system is power, adding torque and power without the downsides of a mechanical tuning that is always around and permanently changes the essence of a vehicle. This power is most notable in cars that lack a punch in the mid-range, which explains the choice of a 2013 911 Carrera demonstrator vehicle. The power addition is unquestionable, unlike the market for this aftermarket upgrade. The system costs $75,000. I’ll let that sink in for a second, however, put that figure into context, and in this area of sports car performance tuning people spend six figure sums turbocharged their Lamborghini’s. Yes, it is a lot of money, on the upside since the system puts power through a modified flywheel it is completely reversible and can even be moved to a new vehicle should you update your Porsche. I say Porsche instead of any car as the company are exclusively making kits for the manufacturer.
It slots in place of the standard unit and doesn’t need any changes to the gearbox, drivetrain, or brakes
I admire the engineering Vonnen is bringing to market but wonder if they may be trying to rescue a cat out of the wrong tree. The cars this system will have the biggest impact on are naturally aspirated and lower power variants. These are also generally the cheapest models and spending the value of the vehicle or even double the value to gain 150 horsepower is a giant ask. The GT3 would be the poster child for Vonnen here, naturally aspirated, lightened from the factory, and missing the thick torque of a turbo model. However there is another problem, the buyer of track-orientated Porsches usually want them solely because they ask more from the driver. They need to be spun up to redline to sing and deliver every last horse, that is both their compromise and attraction. In a sea of cars that deliver outrageous acceleration with the flex of a big toe having a car that makes you work for it is devilishly desirable. Enthusiasts want performance, but being made to work for it is much like the challenge of pleasing the teacher at school that only gave out top marks when your work was perfect. Their demands made you hate them, but secretly, they were the ones you wanted to impress, there were no participation points, and as drivers, the car that really makes us work for it satisfies like hybrid sports cars never will. This is why we all crave a GT3 even if the Turbo would be a better all-rounder.
Going full circle we end up looking at the Vonnen as something to respect but not yet rejoice. In time Vonnen will no doubt further the potential of their tuning. Offering 911 Turbo owners two or three hundred more horsepower will open wallets of wealthy owners that may have otherwise been tempted to take the mechanical tuning route offered by the old school tuning houses. I really hope this is what Vonnen becomes, if they could give the car a token few miles of electric driving range and make it work they may have two types of buyers at their door. Those chasing Bugattis in their 911’s and city dwellers needing some battery range to navigate future clean air legislation in urban environments.
The technical side of the Vonnen kit is essentially a flywheel that is powered by both their standalone power module and the combustion engine. It slots in place of the standard unit and doesn’t need any changes to the gearbox, drivetrain, or brakes. This system is controlled via an app and can surge electricity and mechanical power to the wheels when activated, or sit idle if the user wants to deploy solely the engine's potential. The Vonnen power unit then regenerates but isn’t designed to hold large reserves of charge like a conventional hybrid or electric car. Instead, it is made for short bursts, constantly filling back up and then surging again. This can all be removed and the standard flywheel slotted back in returning the car to standard. Since the Vonnen kit is standalone it doesn’t need you to fiddle with the car's electronic brain for installation or removal, living up to the name ‘shadow drive’.