Few companies command as much attention and respect for their sports cars as Porsche does, due in part to the company’s long commitment to blending practical sports car utility with racing appeal. That’s certainly the case with Porsche’s 918 Spyder, which was designed specifically to challenge other sports car manufacturers over the next decade. The primary challenge is one of horsepower, engine technology, and overall hybrid design. Hybrid engine design, more specifically, is an element that has been left out of sports car design thus far. The 918 Spyder shows that this has been a large oversight, and that such elements can actually boost the performance and excitement of owning an elite, powerful car for racing or everyday leisure.
First Up: The V8 Combustion Engine in the 918
To understand why the 918 is insanely powerful, fast and a major technological advance for cars in this particular niche, it’s important to first understand the main source of vehicle power. The main source of power, located front and center under the hood, is the car’s traditional combustion engine. Though many manufacturers are one day looking to move away from the combustion engine entirely, it remains a central part of the sports car design because it’s simply much more powerful than the typical electric motor at this point in time. That’s certainly true of the 918’s V8 engine.
The V8 engine itself is often touted by Porsche as one of its own technological advances, with the company tracing the roots of the engine to itsLMP2 RS Spyder race car. With racing origins, it should come as no surprise that this behemoth of an engine, in terms of power, serves as the primary source of speed for the 918. The 4.6-liter engine produces a stunning 608 horsepower at top speed and has oversquare 95mm by 81mm bore and stroke ratings. This puts the 918 Spyder on par with the Ferrari 458, an equally powerful and impressive sports car from one of Porsche’s leading competitors. The 918’s V8 engine is capable of up to 9,150 rpm and a 24.7 meter-per-second maximum piston speed. A reconfigured exhaust design sits atop the V8 engine bay, largely to help cool and maintain the lithium-ion batteries that are also a key part of the 918’s configuration.
Electric Motors: More Power from an Equally Impressive Source
If one V8 combustion engine doesn’t seem like enough to get the job done for 918 buyers, don’t fret. Porsche agrees with this sentiment. As a result, the company has equipped the sports car with not one, but twoelectricmotors to helpboost its “green” credibility and on-road performance. The electric motor is said by Porsche to be useful for the same maximum range as a Toyota Prius, with a maximum of 94 equivalent miles per gallon. The engineers at Porsche situated the two electric motors on each axle, which was primarily done as a way to boost performance. Each of these electric motors produces a maximum of 159 horsepower, making them no slouch in terms of on-road performance when the car is operating in a conventional hybrid mode. For regular street driving at more “standard” speeds, these electric motors are a powerful asset for discerning buyers.
Batteries and Charging Times: Another Facet of the 918 Experience
A combustion engine and two electric motors might seem like enough power and performance, but the 918 packs one more element of surprise: a lithium-ion battery. Mounted at the bottom of the vehicle, in a position that is virtually on the pavement, the lithium-ion battery was placed to avoid excessive heat. Avoiding this excessive level of heat helps to maximize the battery’s usable life between replacements, so it was certainly a good choice by Porsche engineers. Because this is a hybrid vehicle, much of the battery’s chargecomesfromregenerativesources. The most common source of battery power is simply hitting the brakes, which is the same for most gas-electric hybrid vehicles currently available. To ensure plenty of range on battery power, the Porsche 918 comes with a 6.8 kilowatt-hour mounted battery, on par with many other hybrid models in the consumer segment of the market.
Five Modes: Driving the 918
The Porsche 918 comeswithfivedifferentdrivemodesthatvarybased on where and how the car isdriven. Stationary mode is designed for fuel efficiency, and is largely a “non-mode” for active use of the vehicle. For racing, the “race” mode enhances exhaust and engine access to cool air, while adjusting the wing for high downforce at the rear of the vehicle. The “sport” mode makes further adjustments to the rear wing and the car’s aerodynamics for enhanced performance, while the “e-power” and “hybrid” vehicle modes are designed for maximum aerodynamics to extend the car’s electric range and cut down on its overall power use.
A Great Sports Car for the Discerning Buyer
The Porsche 918 isn’t for everyone, but it’s certainly got wide appeal among the luxury sports car segment. Designed with three power sources, including a traditional combustion engine, a lithium-ion battery, and two electric motors located on the axles, the car shows that great power can be had without relying exclusively on the combustion engines of the past. This car certainly represents a major challenge to manufacturers who have so far resisted experimentation with alternative sources of energy for their most powerful race cars.What is yourpreference when it comes to Porsche sports cars?
About the author:
Matthew Young is a freelance automotive journalist and blogger hailing from Boston. He is passionate about everything on 4 wheels and new, emerging tech in the industry. When Matthew is not busy writing about cars or awesome new technology, he usually spends time fiddling with his camera and learning a thing or two about photography. You can reach Matthew @mattbeardyoung.