The yearly automotive spectacle that is the Frankfurt Motor Show is upon us once again and this year, German manufacturer Porsche will be debuting the absolute mental hybrid hypercar - the 918 Spyder - at the event.
Drawing from their motorsport experience at Le Mans, the 918 Spyder was designed to be a high-performance hybrid from its inception and as such, boasts an unprecedented combination of performance and the virtually silent, emission-free travel of an electric vehicle.
The unique all-wheel drive arrangement with a combined combustion engine (447 kW from its 4.6L V8) and electric motor drive system on the rear axle, and a second electric motor on the front axle (210 kW), make this possible. The additional, individually controllable front wheel drive enables new driving strategies to be used for extremely high, yet safe, speeds particularly through corners. Furthermore, the advanced 'boost' strategy manages the energy of the electric drive so intelligently that the unrestricted total power of the 918 Spyder can be accessed simply by fully depressing the accelerator pedal for every burst of speed at maximum acceleration. In short, the 918 Spyder allows any driver to experience the potential of its advanced longitudinal and lateral dynamics.
With a combined power output of 652 kW, performance is, pardon the pun, electric and the 918 Spyder is able to sprint from 0-100 km/h in 2.8 seconds and offers an average standard fuel consumption of between 94 mpg and 85 mpg.
The centrepiece of the 918 Spyder is the distribution of propulsive power across three power units, all of which are integrated and controlled via an intelligent management system. To benefit as much as possible from the coverage offered by the different systems, the Porsche engineers at the company's Weissach research and development centre have defined a total of five operating modes, which can be activated via a map switch in the steering wheel, just like in race cars. Using the pre-selected mode, the 918 Spyder applies the most suitable operating and boost strategy without any further intervention from drivers, thus allowing them to concentrate fully on the road.
When the vehicle is started up, 'E-Power' mode is selected as the default operating mode, provided that the battery is sufficiently charged. Depending on load, the 918 Spyder can cover between 10 and 20 miles purely on electric power. Even in pure electric mode, the 918 Spyder accelerates from 0 – 62 mph in under seven seconds and can reach speeds of up to 93 mph. In this mode, the combustion engine is used only when needed. If the battery charging condition drops below a set minimum level, the vehicle automatically switches to hybrid mode.
In 'Hybrid' mode, the electric motors and combustion engine work alternately, focusing on achieving maximum efficiency and minimum fuel consumption. The power output of the individual drive components is modified in line with the current driving situation and the required performance level. Hybrid mode is typically used for fuel-efficient driving.
If more dynamic performance is required, the power units in the 918 Spyder switch over to 'Sport Hybrid' mode. The combustion engine now operates continuously, representing the main propulsive force. The electric motors are activated to support acceleration through the electric boost function, or at points when the operating point of the combustion engine can be optimised for greater efficiency. This mode focuses on performance and a sporty driving experience at top speeds.
'Race Hybrid' is the mode for maximum performance combined with an especially sporting driving experience. The combustion engine is chiefly used under high load, and charges the battery whenever the driver does not require maximum power. In this mode, the electric motors also provide additional support in the form of boosting. The gearshift programme of the Porsche Doppelkupplung (PDK) is also designed for even sportier driving. The electric motors are used up to the maximum power output limit to deliver the best possible performance for the race track. The battery charging condition is not kept constant and instead fluctuates over the entire charge range. In contrast to 'Sport Hybrid' mode, the electric motors run at their maximum power output limit for a short period for enhanced boost performance. This increased output is balanced out by the fact that the combustion engine charges the battery more intensively. The electric power boost is thus always available to the driver even for several very fast laps.
The 'Hot Lap' button in the centre of the map switch releases the final reserves of the 918 Spyder and can only be activated in 'Race Hybrid' mode. Similar to a motor sports qualification mode, 'Race Hybrid' pushes the traction battery to its maximum power output limits for a few fast laps. This mode uses all of the available energy in the battery.