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Porsche builds best hybrid yet

2010-03-02 12:08
Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Porsche
Model 918
Engine 3.4l V8, dual electric
Power 368kW (160kW electric)
Transmission Seven-speed PDK
Zero To Hundred 3.2 seconds
Top Speed 318km/h
Fuel Consumption 3l/100km
Porsche has unveiled a rather convincing hybrid supercar at the Geneva motor show, the 918 Spyder. If this is the future of low-emission supercar design, we say: bring it on, like now...

Cueing styling inferences from the erstwhile Carrera GT supercar, the 918 Spyder hybrid is an outstanding showcase for Porsche's (considerable) engineering abilities. The company has managed to blend significant performance and stunning economy into a single (eco-friendly) drivetrain package.

The 918's hybrid drivetrain boasts petrol power, courtesy of the Porsche RS Spyder's naturally aspirated 3.4l racing V8, in partnership with dual electric motors – one for each axle.

Unbelievably intricate, yet stylish, low-drag alloy wheels. Side exhausts from the 3.4l V8 amidships ensure a racetrack bark. We like.

Scaled up slot-car pace

Although purists might scoff at the 918’s all-wheel drive torque distribution, drive to the rear wheels is via the company’s excellent seven-speed PDK transmission. The 918’s front wheels are motorised by a fixed-ratio shift regime channelling electric power.

With the 3.4l V8 petrol engine (capable of 9 200r/min) powering up to 368kW, and an additional 160kW available from the electric motor, performance is astounding.

Porsche claims (and they’re not often proven wrong) 0-100km/h is achievable in 3.2 seconds and if you happen upon a quiet enough piece of autobahn, it should see off 318km/h.

If you think the performance figures are startling, brace yourself for the fuel economy and emission numbers. Seriously, when last did you hear of a supercar able to return 3l/100km, whilst only emitting 70g of CO2 per km?

Obviously the economy and emission numbers are contingent on driving style. To this end Porsche has equipped the 918 with four selectable driving modes, tallying variable degrees of responsibility for powering the car to the petrol and electric elements of the hybrid drivetrain.

The phrase you're looking for is rapture inducing...

'Ring certified

In pure electric drive (E-Drive) mode, the 918 boasts a range of 25km. Hybrid mode fires up the 3.4l V8, yet remains economy minded, whilst Sport Hybrid is pretty self explanatory. There’s even a Race Hybrid mode for trackday work, featuring a push-to-pass E-Boost button.

It’s in Race Hybrid mode that Porsche set a 7:30 time around Germany's fabled Nurburgring in the 918, besting the company's own Carrera GT supercar…

The 918’s electric drive system extracts power from a fluid-cooled lithium-ion battery pack which is rechargeable from a stock European household current. Once on the move, 918's kinetic energy (during deceleration) is captured and fed to top-up the battery.

Despite boasting a sophisticated dual electric motor set-up and generous battery capacity, the 918 manages to avert the panacea of other hybrids by not exacting a significant mass penalty, which usually reduces handling fluidity.

The 918, thanks to a lightweight monocoque bodywork and a magnesium/aluminium chassis, tips the scales at only 1 490kg – appreciably less than a 911…

Walter Röhrl doesn’t look to happy in the passenger seat, now does he? Or perhaps he’s as perplexed as the rest of us as to why Porsche isn’t going to build the phenomenal 918.

A concept in name, and in purpose?

Unfortunately though, it would all appear to just be a very elaborate technical tease from Porsche.

Despite the perfectly proportioned looks, staggering economy, environmentally friendly performance footprint and stunning, production ready detailing, there are no plans to put the 918 into production.

Sharing Geneva floorspace with the 918 is the second generation Cayenne, which boasts a production ready hybrid - though of significantly lesser performance...

Porsche's official engineering policy currently dictates that none of the 'traditional' Zuffenhausen sportscars (911 and Boxster/Cayman) are allowed to be diluted by hybrid drive technology. This effectively means something as exotic as the 918 is not even worth a mention. It's a tragedy really, as there could have be no more fitting a Carrera GT heir than this hybrid supercar.

At this stage the 918's legacy might be limited to seeing some of its cabin design details migrating into Porsche models of the future, something which would offer (very) scant consolation to enthusiasts...


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