At RMI we love cold beer, hot showers, and fast cars—so long as they are enjoyed responsibly. That’s why we were so intrigued to see the leaked copy of the brochure for the new Porsche 918 Spyder Hybrid. It’s a story of a car that gets the best of both worlds. Seventy-eight mpg is enough to impress even the most hypermiling hybrid car owner, and nearly 800 horsepower under the hood would excite every car enthusiast I know.
Originally released at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show as a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, the 918 Spyder has undergone secret design changes over the last few years as car fans eagerly await its official release to market. The 918’s impressively high efficiency is a result of an intense engineering effort that could’ve been taken straight out of Reinventing Fire.
Vehicle lightweighting is the first and most important step to designing an efficient, fast, and nimble car, whether meant for a track or a commute to the office. The 918 has a carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic monocoque chassis with magnesium and aluminum used on many of its components, bringing the vehicle curb weight down to 3,300 lbs. While these numbers are on the high side for a two-seater (the Miata currently weighs 2,450 lbs) the Porsche would’ve been much heavier without the carbon fiber chassis given that it has three engines and luxurious interior.
Carbon fiber has long been used in the sports car world, but has been slow to take off in mass production due to high cost of production and lack of market demand for lightweight passenger vehicles. That’s why RMI is bringing together automakers, manufacturers, and industry experts in Detroit on November 7-9 to identify, enable, and evaluate part-specific, near-term pathways to market that can kick start widespread adoption of automotive carbon fiber composites.
Our hope is that advanced composite technologies will trickle down from expensive sports cars to nearly all vehicles within a decade. And this is critical, because even as more efficient engine design has become widespread since the 1973 oil embargo, cars just keep getting heavier. Some of this is because of safety regulations and creature comforts, but some is just simply due to consumer demand for bigger vehicles.
Ferdinand Porsche developed the world’s first hybrid-electric sports car in the year 1900. After 112 years, the first production Porsche Hybrid will finally be released.
The 918 Spyder utilizes a 4.6L V8 gasoline engine producing 580hp coupled with an electric motor mounted on each axle, bringing total power up to 795 horses. In E-drive, the electric motors are capable of powering the car in full electric mode and can accomplish a 20 mile range on a single charge via a plug-in charging socket. With a top speed of 202 mph, this is not your average hybrid vehicle.
Hybrids Making Waves on the Track
In a press release, Porsche claimed a Nürburgring Nordschleife lap time of 7:14 for the hardtop version of the new hybrid. This will put it in the top seven fastest times of any car to compete on the track, besting the old Porsche record by a full 18 seconds. But the 918 is not the only hybrid turning heads in the auto racing world. In June the 80th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans was won by an Audi R18 e-tron quattro hybrid. Audi also placed 2nd with another e-tron hybrid and took 3rd with the R18 Ultra Diesel. This makes quite a statement that hybrid and alternative drives are here to stay, not just for the eco-conscious, but for car enthusiasts everywhere. It is also worth noting Toyota brought 2 hybrids to the race, though they failed to finish.
What does it all Mean?
For starters, it means that most major automakers plan to enter the PHEV/EV market for both commuter and competition vehicles over the next few years, if they haven’t already.
(It also means RMI wouldn’t be opposed to a donation of a brand new 918 Spyder for “testing purposes.”)
What really excites us, though, is that there are alternative drivetrain applications for vehicles in every automotive market sector, and that the R&D going into supercars may one day trickle down to the car sitting in your driveway. During this political season, references to our long-running love affair with the automobile have been plentiful—the car is not going away anytime soon. Yet knowing that the path to a cleaner future includes getting off oil for transportation, other mobility options such as bicycle sharing programs and smart public transport are needed to provide customers a choice about the best way to get around.
But it is good to see that some cars are getting smarter, leaner, and closer to the revolutionary transformation we need to build a sustainable future.
Image from Endlezz