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Porsche sets goal of 2010 for Cayenne to go hybrid

Porsche says hybrid version of its Cayenne SUV so far gets about 24.4 miles to the gallon in testing. Porsche says hybrid version of its Cayenne SUV so far gets about 24.4 miles to the gallon in testing. (Porsche AG)

WEISSACH, Germany -- Porsche AG's first hybrid vehicle will be ready within three years, the head of the luxury automaker's new hybrid program announced yesterday, saying it showed progress by a company derided by some environmental groups as a climate destroyer.

Leaders of Germany's auto industry have rejected criticisms that they lack the initiative to build more environmentally friendly cars, saying this week they were working on new, fuel-efficient models. Porsche's Cayenne hybrid, being developed in part with Volkswagen AG and Audi AG, is expected when complete to reduce the four-door sport utility vehicle's fuel consumption by almost one-third.

Michael H. Leiters, the head of the Stuttgart, Germany-based automaker's hybrid program, said the move is part of a wider effort to help its customers shake off the image of being gas-guzzling planet haters.

"If you drive a Porsche in the neighborhood and everyone is . . . saying you are environmentally unfriendly, that is not good for us," he said.

Criticism of Porsche's sports cars can be severe. Greenpeace protested the company's production at its plant in Zuffenhausen yesterday, accusing it of building "climate pigs."

Porsche noted in response that in Germany, less than 12 percent of all exhaust emissions come from passenger cars, with Porsche's share less than 1/10th of 1 percent. The hybrid Cayenne prototype emits 240 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer, compared with 310 grams from a normal gas-powered Cayenne. So far, in testing, it gets about 24.4 miles per gallon compared with 17.9 miles per gallon for a conventional Cayenne.

German lobbying forced the European Union earlier this year to water down a plan for emissions reductions. The EU plan that passed calls for cutting grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer by 2012.