- What: eRuf Model A
- Where: Pfaffenhausen, Germany
- Price: £150,000+ / $225,000+
- Available: 2009 – 2010
- Key rivals: Tesla Roadster, G-Whiz
Caring about the environment has never been so easy now Ruf has ripped the combustion engine out of a Porsche 911 and slotted in a motor.
- Likes: it’s green, fast and comfy, too
- Dislikes: lardy handling, no luggage space, rough edges inside and understanding new technology
Alois Ruf’s calling card is a firebreathing 911 that eats ozone like a small child chews through chocolate, so the car rolling silently out of the company’s skunkworks, just a mile from the main factory, is what’s technically known as a turn up for the books. It’s the start of a whole new chapter for Ruf Automobile: the eRuf Model A, Germany’s first electric sportscar.
Ruf knows there’s only so much fuel left to be wrung from the earth. And while the tuning community on the whole is happy to bury its head in the oil rich sand, he is already looking to the future with the eRuf brand that will provide environmentally friendly sportscars for petrolheads with a conscience.
This is the first step, essentially a Carrera S with the internal combustion engine ripped out and replaced with an electric motor and batteries.
With no major cooling requirements, or exhaust, Ruf could smooth out the styling, but this is just the first step on a journey long into the future. By the time Model A hits the open market it will have evolved into a whole new animal: lighter, sleeker and much, much faster.
Tesla proved that electric cars could be sexy, but with a real, working electric 911, Ruf has produced a fast and comfortable car that simply plugs in at the end of the day.
And for the sake of convenience we’ll ignore the fact that electricity currently comes from smoke belching power stations.
Even the most efficient combustion engine loses 75% of its output to internal friction and the ancillary systems. An electric motor is a much simpler system and 80% of the output goes straight to the wheels, with all the monumental 480 lb/ft of torque coming direct from the off, from 0rpm, which renders the traditional six-speed manual in this car almost redundant.
It’s there, for now, but the car takes off in sixth and eventually the ‘box will make way for a more conventional automatic set-up with forward, reverse and park. And with all that torque it doesn’t really matter that the actual power output is 150kW, the electrical equivalent of 204bhp. That’s warm hatch territory at best.
But still the eRuf can break through the 60mph mark in seven seconds, in sixth gear, with the whirs and clicks of the gearbox and external hydraulic pumps giving way to the dull roar of tyre meeting road and the electric three-phase brushless motor winding up to 5,000rpm. And that whirring, dull noise will keep on rising until the 140mph limit – not bad for a green machine.
As for the brakes, right here, right now, they’re standard. But that will change as the nature of the motor means it can be turned into a generator at the flick of a switch, or the press of a pedal. So, in the end, hitting the brake will engage generator mode and the car will slow in just the same way while regenerating the batteries. But the traditional disc brake will all but disappear, remaining only as an emergency brake.
Ride and Handling
Ruf worked hard to keep the same basic front/rear weight balance and retain the basic handling characteristics of the 911 Carrera S, kind of.
But there’s one critical problem, the car weighs slightly less than a moon thanks to 96 of the 5.6kg iron phosphate/lithium ion batteries that replace the conventional tank of fuel. They’re rammed everywhere, in the storage space, throughout the back end and anywhere else they could think of to achieve the 200km range that was deemed an essential part of the equation for a usable commuter car rather than a near-pointless technical demonstration.
And that leaves this less powerful car with 1,910kg of kerbweight to contend with, which is a lot. That extra mass drags on its hips through the bends and, while it’s still basically a 911, it feels slow to react, ponderous and less like the surgical weapon we have all come to expect from cars this shape.
But Ruf has made no rampant claims about this being the ultimate electric sportscar, not yet. They have billed this as a commuter that can get to the office, cover 130 miles on a seven-hour charge and ease the conscience of the owner who probably has a gas guzzling monster at home for the weekends. Next generation batteries and a simpler gearbox will cut 300kg from the kerbweight and send the performance skyward, though.
As for the ride, it’s a Porsche 911 with sports seats, so it’s magic carpet smooth. And the eery silence of the electric motor means it’s as quiet as a Mercedes S-Class.
Someone had been hard at work with the label maker on this prototype and the dashboard is a rough concoction of switches, buttons and hastily connected lights right now. Aside from that there is a race-style digital readout that contains a whole new world of information, like the kW/hour, remaining battery life and the current efficiency of the brushless three-phase motor.
But the final version will feature a 911 interior so expertly modified that you’ll swear it left the Zuffenhausen production line and only the important information, like how much juice is left in the batteries and how much you’re using, will be on show. And, hopefully, there’ll be some luggage space once the next gen batteries are fitted as even the rear seats have been ripped out.
The MSN Cars verdict: 3/5
The real genius in this is that every other electric car requires some form of sacrifice: either looking like a berk in a G-Whiz or folding creaking joints over the sill of a Tesla, which is basically a Lotus Elise when all is said and done. Model A combines green, electric power with Porsche 911 style, comfort and practicality.
It’s rough around the edges, but this is just the first step and with the finest tuner in the Porsche business putting his full weight behind the project it will go forth in leaps and bounds.
We cannot wait for Model B.