It was eight years ago, in March 2010, that Porsche presented its first hybrid supercar, the 918 Spyder Concept Study, at the Geneva Motor Show. I was fortunate enough to be present at this launch, and what a sensation it caused, with its futuristic looking styling and powerful stance. Getting up close to the barriers was something of a challenge, until I was ushered inside the barriers and up close to the newcomer. The Porsche 918 Spyder Concept Study introduction at the Geneva show evidently caused quite a stir amongst those in the market for such a car, as interest was extremely high.
The concept model was bristling with high-tech innovations and features. The press kit from the Geneva launch stated that the 918 Spyder Concept Study was powered by a hybrid engine and twin electric motors, giving the supercar a combined output of around 718 bhp at 9200 rpm. The engine, a V8 combustion engine, was a development of the highly successful 3.4-litre engine as used in the RS Spyder LMP2 racing car, and produced 500 bhp. Two electric motors, one on the front and one on the rear axle, added an additional mechanical output of 218 bhp.
The combined output of 718 bhp resulted in an acceleration figure from a standstill to 62 mph (100 km/h) in just under 3.2 seconds, giving a top speed of 198 mph (320 km/h) plus. This level of performance allowed the 918 Spyder to clock a lap time of less than 7:30 minutes on the Nordschleife of the Nürburgring, faster even than the Porsche Carrera GT. But the astonishing thing was that a supercar giving this level of performance could return a fuel consumption of only 94 mpg imp (based on the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC)), which would have been truly outstanding even for an ultra-compact city car. An emission level of just 70 g/km CO2 was achieved.
Power was to be transmitted to the wheels by means of a seven-speed PDK transmission which also fed the power of the electric drive system to the rear axle, while the front-wheel electric drive powered the wheels. The energy was stored in a fluid-cooled lithium-ion battery positioned behind the passenger cell. The big advantage of the plug-in hybrid was that the battery could be charged through a regular electrical network when at home. In addition, the car’s kinetic energy was converted into electrical energy and fed into the battery when the brakes were applied, thus providing additional energy for fast and dynamic acceleration.
On the road
The driver could choose from four different running modes, this being selected via a button on the steering wheel. The E-Drive mode was for running under electric power alone, and gave a range of up to 25 km or 16 miles. In Hybrid mode, the 918 Spyder would use both the electric motors as well as the combustion engine, offering a performance range from particularly fuel-efficient, all the way up to extra-powerful.
The Sport Hybrid mode would also use both drive systems, but with the focus on performance. Most of the drive power would be directed to the rear wheels, with Torque Vectoring serving to additionally improve the car’s driving dynamics. In Race Hybrid mode, the drive systems would be focused on pure performance with the highest standard of driving dynamics for the track. With the battery sufficiently charged, a push-to-pass button would feed in additional electrical power (E-Boost), for example when overtaking or for even higher performance.
Body and interior
The lightweight body structure of the 918 Spyder was also influenced directly by the manufacturer’s long-term involvement in motorsport. The modular structure with its monocoque bodyshell was made of carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) in combination with magnesium and aluminium. This not only reduced the overall weight, but it also ensured driving precision as a result of the high level of torsional stiffness.
An extract from the 2010 press kit at launch explained the body design, “The smooth balance of tradition and progress gives the car a powerful stance on the road in its combination of dimensions. Variable aerodynamics 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.”
Facing the driver were three free-standing circular dials, the left one showing road speed, the centre dial was for engine speed while the right dial provided energy management readings. The centre console rose up towards the front to meet the top of the dashboard, and housed a touch-sensitive surface for easy control of the car’s functions, reducing the number of visible controls.
The control units relevant to the driver were concentrated on the three-spoke multifunction sports steering wheel. Instrument illumination varied from green, for the consumption-oriented running modes, to red for the performance-oriented driving programs. The 918 Spyder was also equipped with a Range Manager, which used a map in the navigation system to show the remaining range the car is able to cover.
As is quite common with show cars, the Geneva Porsche 918 Spyder Concept Study incorporated some features which didn’t make it into production. Speaking to Dr. Frank-Steffen Walliser (Project Leader on the 918 Spyder project) in the Porsche Museum some years later, I asked him what had happened to the elaborate looking wheel covers on the concept car. Smiling broadly, he replied, “Those were put on by the designers, and they were the first things to go on the production car.” One of the other futuristic (at the time) features to be cast aside were the external cameras which were replaced by traditional rear view mirrors. The side exiting exhaust outlets were also changed and on the production model, instead they exited high up on the engine cover and pointing rearwards.
On 28 July 2010, and following the overwhelming response from the public and customers to the Concept Study shown at the Geneva Show, Porsche’s Supervisory Board gave the green light for the development of the Porsche 918 Spyder. Michael Macht, President and Chairman of the Board of Management of Porsche AG, said at the time, “Production of the 918 Spyder in a limited series proves that we are taking the right approach with Porsche Intelligent Performance featuring the combination of supreme performance and efficient drivetrain concepts. We will develop the 918 Spyder in Weissach and assemble it in Zuffenhausen.”
As a result of the decision taken in July 2010 by the Supervisory Board, the production version of the Porsche 918 Spyder celebrated its debut at the International Motor Show in Frankfurt on 3 September 2013. In the same month, the 918 Spyder set the lap record for street-legal vehicles with production tyres on the North Loop of the Nürburgring, with a lap time of 6 minutes 57 seconds. Priced from €645,000 – subject to VAT and on-the-road charges – production of the 918 Spyder commenced officially on 18 September 2013, while deliveries to the first customers was made in November.
The innovative supercar was equally well received by the public and customers alike, so much so that, on 18 May 2015, Autosport magazine, the oldest motoring magazine in the world, announced two awards for the 918 Spyder. Wolfgang Hatz, Board Member for Research and Development at Porsche at the time, was honoured with the ‘Issigonis Trophy’ at an awards ceremony in London. And the 918 Spyder plug-in hybrid super sports car was recognised with a ‘Five Star Award’, identifying it as one of the highest performing cars tested in 2014 by the magazine.
Right on schedule, on 19 June 2015, the final Porsche 918 Spyder came off the line in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen, which brought to an end the production of 918 units of the limited edition super sports car over its 21-month production run.
Porsche 918 Spyder technical specifications:
|Engine||Parallel full hybrid; 4.6-litre V8 mid-engine with dry-sump lubrication; hybrid module with electric motor and decoupler; electric motor with decoupler and gear unit on front axle; auto start/stop function; electrical system recuperation; four cooling circuits for motors, transmission and battery; thermal management|
|Power output||> 570 hp (V8 engine) @ 9000 rpm|
~ 90 kW (hybrid module on rear axle)
~ 80 kW (electric motor on front axle)
> 770 hp (combined)
|Max. Torque||> 750 Nm (combined)|
|Output per litre||~ 125 hp/l (V8 engine)|
|Power transmission||Combustion engine with hybrid module and transmission bolted together to form a single drive unit; 7-speed PDK; rear-wheel drive; electric motor in the front with gear unit for driving the front wheels; five pre-selectable operating modes for optimum coordination of all drive units|
|Suspension||Double-wishbone front axle; optional electro-pneumatic lift system on front axle; electro-mechanical power steering; multi-link rear axle with adaptive electro-mechanical system for individual rear wheel steering; electronically controlled twin-tube gas-pressure dampers in the front and rear with Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM)|
|Brake system||High-performance hybrid brake system with adaptive recuperation; ceramic brake discs (PCCB)|
|Dimensions||Length 4643 mm|
Width 1940 mm
Height 1167 mm
Curb weight 1700 kg
Wheelbase 2730 mm
|Performance||Top speed > 325 km/h; purely electric > 150 km/h|
|Acceleration||0 – 100 km/h < 3.0 s|
0 – 200 km/h < 9.0 s
0 – 300 km/h < 27.0 s
Written by: Glen Smale
Images by: Virtual Motorpix/Glen Smale and Porsche-Werkfoto