Porsche Takes the Hybrid Road with the 918 Spyder

Porsche is going green — in the fast lane.

Earth consciousness and asphalt-scorching performance will ride together in the company’s planned 918 Spyder Hybrid.

Combining a high-performance gasoline-powered engine with plug-in electric-drive technology, the mid-engine two-seater debuted as a concept car at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show in March 2010 and later appeared in the United States.

“People responded quite favorably, enough so that we are going to put the car into production,” says Dave Engelman, product communications manager for Atlanta-based Porsche Cars North America. He notes that in the last year dealers for the Stuttgart-based company have already taken 900-plus pre-orders for the 918 Spyder, approaching the limited run of 918 announced for the concept alone.

Built as a component of Porsche’s broad-based Intelligent Performance initiative, the all-wheel-drive 918 is scheduled for delivery to U.S. customers from the Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen factory near the end of 2013. The preliminary MSRP is $845,000, excluding destination and handling charges.

Porsche devotees needn’t fear that the new car won’t deliver the same driving thrills as its supercar predecessors.

Its 500-plus horsepower V-8 engine is based on the 3.4-liter Porsche RS Spyder racing engine, which has posted Michelin Green X Challenge victories in the American Le Mans Series, the Le Mans Series and the 24 Hours of Le Mans, as well as three straight ALMS LMP2 championships. The 90-degree naturally aspirated 4.0-liter engine was developed at the famed Weissach engineering center and tweaked for maximum street performance.

This already potent powerplant is paired with two brushless electric motors, one for the front axle, one for the rear. When deployed, they add approximately 218 horses.

With a claimed weight-to-power ratio of 4.8 pounds per horsepower, at a projected curb weight of 3,285 pounds, this is about 720 horsepower combined —116 more than the 5.7-liter V-10 in the legendary Carrera GT.

Porsche says its 918 Spyder Concept will deliver you to 62 mph in a brisk 3.2 seconds and continues to accelerate to 198 mph at 9200 rpm. In optimum conditions, the 918 Spyder will reach 94 mph for limited distances on electric power alone. Porsche says it has tested the new car at the landmark Nürburgring Nordschleife at laps of less than 7 minutes 30 seconds — bettering the time of the Carrera GT by two seconds.

Still, the 21st-century car should deliver outstanding EPA fuel economy — a combined 78 mpg on the New European Driving Cycle — as well as low CO2 emissions of 112 g/mile, Porsche says. In Europe, the NEDC is the EPA equivalent.

The V-8 power will be transferred to the rear wheels via a seven-speed Porsche-Doppelkupplung double-clutch gearbox. In the front, the electric motors are directly connected through fixed ratio. The variable all-wheel system provides independent control of the drive forces on both axles.

For optimal center of gravity, the bank of liquid-cooled lithium-ion batteries, with a 5.1-volt capacity, sit behind the seats and in front of the engine. You recharge from a standard household outlet as well as, during driving, by brake regeneration.

“We have not announced any specifics other than it should take about seven hours at 110V/10A in the United States to recharge,” Engelman explains, noting that a quick-charge high-amp option being evaluated would offer dramatically faster recharging. On electric power only, the car travels about 16 miles and seamlessly transfers to conventional gas power.

Porsche expects four driving modes, beginning with E Drive for electric power alone. In the Hybrid mode, electric power and gasoline power are combined to maximize economy or performance. In Sport Hybrid mode, both drive systems are optimized to transfer additional power through the rear wheels assisted by advanced torque vectoring. Lastly, the Race Hybrid mode delivers race-track level performance, including an E-Boost feature that adds electrical power for passing or improved lap times.

“Aesthetically, the 918 Spyder looks very much like a relative of the Carrera GT,” wrote Andrew Bornhop for Road & Track after the Geneva show. “It also looks like it would be perfectly at home on the road or the track.”

Again like the Carrera GT, the 918 Spyder’s chassis is predominantly carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic, and Porsche has used magnesium and aluminum to reduce weight.

The car is 183 inches long and 47 inches tall — similar to the Carrera GT. The two cars share the same width at 76 inches and wheelbase at 104 inches. Still, it’s roomier inside than the Carrera GT.

To improve aerodynamics, the two-seat production 918, unlike the concept car, will feature a manual roof system with removable panels that can be stored in the front luggage compartment. Rear hoods extending from the headrests accommodate retractable air intakes for ram-air functionality.

Inside, you will enjoy easy-to-read circular gauges — road speed on the left; engine speed in the middle; and, on the right, the energy-management gauge. The center console has a touch screen for monitoring and controlling other car functions. One of the fun tools is a Range Manager, which, through the satellite navigation system, displays information such as how far the Spyder can continue from your current location and if you can reach your destination on electric power alone.

Customers who order the 918 Spyder also have the opportunity to acquire a special-edition 911 Turbo S Coupe or Cabriolet, whose production will also be limited to 918. This limited edition 911 Turbo S 918 Edition is an exclusive offer to 918 Spyder customers.

The 911 Turbo S Edition 918 Spyder will share design elements echoing the plug-in hybrid 918 Spyder supercar’s styling such as similar exterior colors, carbon-fiber elements, enhanced leather equipment and numerous acid-green accents on items such as the brake calipers, illuminated sill plates, interior stitching and instrument cluster needles. On the glove compartment door, a limited-edition badge will feature the same production number as the customer’s 918 Spyder.

Worldwide, 918 Spyder customers can begin ordering this special edition 911 Turbo S sports car now, and customer deliveries will start later this year. The MSRP for the Coupe and Cabriolet versions are the same as the standard 911Turbo S models: $160,700 and $172,100 respectively, not including destination fees.

Porsche Cars North America, www.porsche.com/usa,

1.800-PORSCHE, (1.800.767.7243)