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by Tim Beissmann

It may look a little raw, but the prototype in these images will soon give life to the fastest, most fuel-efficient and most expensive Porsche in history: the Porsche 918 Spyder.

With official details filtering through ahead of its 2013 unveiling, the Porsche 918 Spyder plug-in hybrid supercar looks set to take efficient motoring to an almost inconceivable level.

The 918 Spyder draws its power from three sources: a mid-mounted 425kW-plus 4.6-litre V8 engine, a 90kW hybrid module on the rear axle and an 80kW electric motor on the front axle. Its combined output will be in excess of 574kW, with peak torque above 750Nm.

Those monumental numbers see the 918 Spyder accelerate from 0-100km/h in less than 3.0 seconds and 0-200km/h in under 9.0 seconds on the way to its 325km/h-plus top speed. It also has an electric-only driving range of more than 25km and can accelerate beyond 150km/h before the petrol engine kicks in.

Despite being more powerful and quicker off the mark than the upcoming V12-powered Ferrari F12 Berlinetta, the 918 Spyder will be among the most fuel-efficient petrol-powered vehicles on the market.

With fuel consumption below 3.0 litres per 100km and CO2 emissions under 70 grams per kilometre, the plug-in supercar is more than 25 per cent greener than the Toyota Prius, and would be the most frugal car in Australia if it was launched today.

There are a few problems with that, however. The first is that Porsche will only produce the 918 Spyder very limited numbers, and all of those will be made in left-hand-drive only. Any Australians desperate to add the 918 to their private collection will be forced to part with approximately $1.5 million and will only be allowed to drive it around racetracks.

The Porsche 918 Spyder is a two-seat Targa-top convertible made from carbon fibre reinforced plastics.

The seven-speed PDK dual-clutch transmission is based on that of the 911 Turbo but has undergone a complete overhaul, with the unit rotated 180 degrees to be positioned upside-down to improve the vehicle’s centre of gravity. It sends power from the engine and hybrid module to the rear wheels and the electric motor sends power to the front wheels.

Five pre-selectable operating modes have been developed for optimum performance and coordination of the drive units in all conditions.

‘E-Power’ is the car’s pure electric mode, and its default propulsion setting. When the charge state falls below a minimum level, ‘Hybrid’ mode is initiated, drawing on all three power sources, typically for consumption-oriented driving conditions like city traffic.

‘Sport Hybrid’ ensures the petrol engine is in constant operation and provides the main propulsive force, with the electric motors giving an extra boost when the driver demands higher output.

‘Race Hybrid’ mode steps performance up another level, allowing the electric motors to run at their maximum outputs, and sending more charge from the combustion engine to the lithium-ion battery.

The final mode, ‘Hot Lap’, is designed specially for a handful of fast laps. It uses all of the available energy in the battery and accesses the last available reserves of power.

The battery itself comprises 312 individual cells with an energy content of 6.8kWh. Charging from a standard power supply takes around four hours, while a fast charge can power it up in half that time.

Porsche says the 918 Spyder will join the Carrera GTS, the first Porsche Turbo, the 959, the 911 GT1 and the Carrera GT among its elite stable of “ultimate sports cars”, and says it provides a “critical impetus to developing the technologies for future concept vehicles”.

Check out the Porsche 918 Spyder concept from the 2010 Geneva motor show for an idea of how the production car will look.




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