Switzerland is known for a lot of things - chocolate, ski resorts, a square flag… but all-electric sports cars? Not so much. However, that could very well change with the introduction of the 2019 Piëch Mark Zero. Offered as the very first model from Piëch Automotive, a German-Swiss automaker based out of Zürich and Munich, the Mark Zero is a high-powered two-door EV with grand tourer aspirations, plus a low-three-second 0-to-60 mph time and head-turning good looks. Making its formal public debut with home-field advantage at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show, the Mark Zero could also provide the underpinnings for a number of upcoming models, as well as the most important EV battery tech upgrade of the modern era.
While zesty good looks and a comfortable interior are all well and good, an EV lives and dies by its powertrain. As such, Piëch Automotive spared no expense in developing what could very well be a complete game-changer in the world of EVs.
First, let’s talk about what makes the 2019 Piëch Mark Zero go.
Providing the motivation is a trio of electric motors, including a single asynchronous electric motor up front making 150 kW (201 horsepower), plus a pair of synchronous motors in the rear, each of which makes 150 kW (201 horsepower) on their own.
Total horsepower is not yet known (it’s not always as simple as adding all the numbers together), but either way, this thing is definitely quick, with 60 mph arriving in just over three seconds. Top speed is predictably low (EVs tend to run out of puff the faster they go), rated at 155 mph.
Lay off the skinny pedal, and you’ll be going pretty far between plug-in sessions, with max range rated at 500 km, or 311 miles. For the sake of comparison the Tesla Model S 100D offers 335 miles per charge. And while that’s all quite impressive stuff, the 2019 Piëch Mark Zero’s potentially game-changing moment happens as soon as you plug it in.
You see, Piëch claims that the Mark Zero is equipped with a new type of battery cell that’s capable of reaching an 80-percent charge capacity (roughly 250 miles) in just four minutes and 40 seconds. For the sake of comparison, the 2019 Tesla Model 3 takes 30 minutes to recharge an additional 170 miles when plugged into a Supercharger station.
If Piëch Auotmotive’s claims are true, it’ll make the Mark Zero the quickest-charging passenger EV in the world.
What’s more, it’ll be more or less in line with the refill times offered in a traditional gas-powered car. That’s a major step forward, and not just for the automaker, but for the EV segment as a whole. This technology could very well be the pivot point where electric vehicles compete with standard internal combustion in terms of adoption rates. After all, cars are all about convenience, and if you’ve gotta wait around for half an hour to get enough electricity to get where you’re going, gas-powered cars will continue to hold the advantage.
That said, we’ve gotta take Piëch Automotive’s claims with a grain of salt. For now, all this is nothing more than a claim made in a press release, so we’ll wait until we see the recharge technology in action to declare the Mark Zero as our new EV savior.
Moving on, Piëch Automotive claims that the battery pack doesn’t heat up as much as other packs when charging or discharging, as it uses a special type of cell that somehow mitigates big temperature swings while in use, therefore allowing for higher overall currents (both on the charge and discharge side). This helps with the stated recharge times, but it also helps with weight. Because the pack only requires air cooling, this special type of pack cuts out roughly 200 kg (441 pounds) compared to something like a liquid-cooled system.
All told, the 2019 Piëch Mark Zerl tips the scales at less than 1,800 kg (3,968 pounds).
While not exactly feathery compared to a lightness-focused, ICE-powered sports model, a weight under 4,000 pounds is still pretty low for an EV. For the sake of comparison, a well-equipped Tesla Model S can weight almost 5,000 pounds.
Under the body panels, the Piëch Mark Zero is built on a “flexible and open vehicle architecture.” This modular approach means the platform can be adapted to a number of different models and body types, something which is particularly useful for an up-and-coming automaker with relatively limited development of production resources.
Notably, the Mark Zero architecture will accommodate additional powertrain types beyond all-electric, including hybrids, fuel cells, and even a traditional internal combustion engine. Piëch Automotive will offer this modular structure to other carmakers as well.
What’s more, the structure was designed to accommodate updates to the software and hardware systems, including autonomous technology for the former, and new battery tech for the latter.
As for the drivetrain, the Mark Zero’s trio of electric motors helps it to stick to the pavement with a hearty dose of all-wheel drive grip.
As a sports car, Piëch Automotive said it focused on honing the Mark Zero’s handling and agility, especially with regards to weight distribution.
For example, the batteries were placed in the central tunnel and around the rear axle to keep the heft properly distributed across the two axles.
What’s more, this type of placement differs from the more common under-floor mounting position you see in other EVs. This allows for a lower seating position, which Piëch says helps with driving feel without compromising overall handling charactersitics.
“Weight distribution and handling are expected to be similar to that of a conventional sports car with a combustion engine,” Piëch boasts.
Founded three-and-a-half years ago by Toni Piëch and Co-CEO/Creative Director Rea Stark Rajcic, Piëch Automotive is no ordinary boutique automaker. Co-founder Toni Piëch is actually the son of former Volkswagen head Ferdinand Piëch, as well as the great-grandson of none other than Ferdinand Porsche (yes, that Ferdinand Porsche).
That means this company has connections and credibility beyond those of a typical car start-up, and given the specs and tech claims seen with the Mark Zero, we’d say the company has a fair bit of ambition to boot.
All told, Switzerland’s first all-electric car is looking pretty good.
The 2019 Piëch Mark Zero is attractive, quick, and forward-looking, and could very well be the genesis of a brand-new “family of products” in the next three years.
Even more importantly, Piëch Automotive is heavily focused on the stuff we like most - performance and driving fun.
“It’s our aim to support the emotional driving experience with up-to-date technology. It’s meant to help the driver but not distract him,” said Piëch Automotive creative head Stark Rajcic. “And it’s about the real sports car feeling: driving, not being driven!”
“We have developed a sports car that we ourselves would like to buy and we talked for a long time to many enthusiasts about what was missing on the market. We want to offer a modern classic that isn’t subject to consumer cycles. The driver of this sports car should enjoy any minute they can spend in the car,” said co-CEO Toni Piëch.
Beyond the Mark Zero, what can we expect from the company? If the Mark Zero isn’t a total flub, Piëch could offer a follow-up two-seater, a four-seater sedan, and a performance SUV, all of which are currently in the planning stage. Piëch Automotive also says that “other concepts like convertibles or pick-ups are also conceivable.”
Piëch is playing it smart as well, hooking up with industry players to quickly advance development.
For example, the China-based Desten Group was tapped for its battery tech, including R&D work with regards to cell and battery packs, and presumably the ultra-low charge times as well.
Piëch also partnered with the China-based Qingdao TGOOD Electric Co. Ltd for the company’s expertise in electric vehicle charging infrastructure in China, which includes 210,000 charging stations located in more than 300 cities.
So far, there’s no word how (or if) Piëch Automotive will approach the U.S. market, but if the company’s eye-raising claims turn out to be true, you can bet folks on these shores will be clamoring for a Mark Zero of their own.