Porsche's hybrid 918 supercar showcased in Geneva

The Porsche 918 Spyder is one of three Porsche models with hybrid drive that made it’s world debut at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show.  The trio made up of Porsche’s new Cayenne S Hybrid SUV with parallel full-hybrid drive, the 911 GT3 R Hybrid racing car with electric drive on the front axle and a flywheel mass battery, and the two-seater high-performance 918 Spyder mid-engined sports car with plug-in hybrid – clearly demonstrates not only the great bandwidth of this new drive technology, but also the innovative power of Porsche as a genuine pioneer in hybrid drive. 

The highly innovative Porsche 918 Spyder combines Porsche’s Intelligent Performance technology, ultra-efficiency, low-emission, mid-engine super sports car featuring hybrid and electric drive technology.

The Porsche 918 Spyder is stunning, but with looks must come power and the 918 does not disappoint, Porsche says the 918 Spyder can do the Nurburgring in less than 7m30s – that is faster than the Porsche Carrera GT.

This open two-seater is powered by the highly successful 3.4-litre power unit already featured in the RS Spyder racing car, positioned in front of the rear axle, giving the car excellent balance for the track. The V8 develops more than 500bhp, running at 9,200 rpm as well as electric motors on the front and rear axle with overall mechanical output of 218 bhp (160 kW).

The Porsche 918 Spyder with plug-in hybrid provides the performance of a thoroughbred super sports car with an emission level of just 70 grams CO2 per kilometre on fuel consumption of three litres/100 kilometres. The 918's hybrid system is different to the technology seen on either the Porsche 911 GT3 Hybrid or the new Porsche Cayenne Hybrid. Uniquely, it can be recharged from the mains, and will manage up to 16 miles in all-electric mode. Driven conservatively in hybrid mode, Porsche says it will return 94mpg and 70g/km of CO2.

The front-wheel electric drive powers the wheels through a firm transmission ratio. The energy reservoir is a fluid-cooled lithium-ion battery positioned behind the passenger cell. The big advantage of a plug-in hybrid is that the battery can be charged on the regular electrical network. A further point is that the car’s kinetic energy is converted into electrical energy fed into the battery when applying the brakes, providing additional energy for fast and dynamic acceleration.

A button on the steering wheel allows the driver to choose among four different running modes: The E-Drive mode is for running the car under electric power alone, with a range of up to 25 km or 16 miles. In the Hybrid mode the 918 Spyder uses both the electric motors and the combustion engine as a function of driving conditions and requirements, offering a range from particularly fuel-efficient all the way to extra-powerful.

The energy reservoir is a fluid-cooled lithium-ion battery positioned behind the passenger cell. The big advantage of a plug-in hybrid is that the battery can be charged on the regular electrical network, says Porsche.

The smooth balance of tradition and progress gives the car a powerful stance on the road in its combination of dimensions.  Variable aerodynamics typical of Porsche ensure both visionary and traditional highlights especially around the rear spoiler. The striking rear hoods extending out of the headrests, in turn, not only fulfil an aerodynamic function on the 918 Spyder, but also accommodate retractable air intakes with a ram air function.

The driver and passenger are not only perfectly embedded in contoured sports bucket seats, but also form part of the cockpit with its synthesis of efficient function and ergonomic high-tech operation offering an outlook at the interior architecture we may possibly see in super sports cars of the future. The three free-standing circular dials for road speed (left), engine speed (middle) and energy management (right) would appear to come directly from a racing car in the ‘60s, bearing out that unique philosophy of driver orientation so characteristic of Porsche.

The 918 Spyder also comes with further innovative functions such as the Range Manager. After being activated in the Centre Display, the Range Manager uses the map in the navigation system to present the remaining range the car is able to cover, naturally allowing the driver to influence that range through the appropriate choice of power and performance. In cities with environmental alert areas the Range Manager also states whether the driver is able to reach a certain destination on electric power alone.

Reminiscent of highly successful, legendary racing cars such as the Porsche 917 Le Mans and the current Porsche RS Spyder, the 918 Spyder with its design concept so typical of Porsche arouses powerful emotions. The combination of racing car dimensions, clearly structured design with perfectly balanced surfaces, and innovative details all round creates an overall pattern of aesthetic, perfectly balanced harmony in design full of power and dynamics. This indeed is the ideal synthesis of form and function following Porsche’s design DNA.

So will the 918 be the next Carrera GT?  Porsche knows how to turn racers into road cars: the Carrera GT started life as the LMP2, so the 918 stands every chance of becoming the road-going, production version of the RS Spyder racer. And, as Porsche CEO Michael Macht claims, his company has never made a concept car that wasn't put into production.