Apr 052011

German sports-car maker Porsche has officially launched the 918 Spyder. The Zuffenhaus-based company made most famous by its epic 911 supercoupe has announced that it is now taking orders for the staggeringly quick hybrid 918 Spyder.

The 918 Spyder was first shown as a concept car at last year’s Geneva Motor Show. Though design cues clearly maintain the new car’s links to a sporting heritage stretching back to 1931, the two-door electric hypercar really doesn’t look like anything we’ve seen before from Porsche.

In fact, the 918 Spyder resembles little else around today. This unique character doesn’t stop at looks either.

The greentastic new German plug-in uber-coupe will feature a 4.0-litre V8 internal combustion engine and a pair of electric motors. Altogether, this hybrid power train is capable of generating a total of 718 horsepower (hp).

This amazing green car’s power is a combination of the 500hp generated by the mid-mounted V8 engine and the 218hp on tap from the two electric motors. Despite all that power, the car sips fuel at an impressive rate of just 3.0 litres per 100kms.

Porche 918 Super Electric Car (Hybrid)

Porche 918 Super Electric Car (Hybrid)

This works out to an incredible 78mpg. Such parsimonious fuel consumption would be impressive in the most basic of eco-cars but in a swoopy coupe that can hit 60mph from a standstill in a mind-blowing 3.1 seconds, it is quite frankly mind-blowing.

Given enough safe and legal space, the lucky driver of a 918 Spyder can expect to see the speedometer on his cutting-edge eco-car indicate 199mph. Porsche says the car will even manage 94mph running purely on electric power, if conditions are suitable.

So how, exactly, does the 918 Spyder achieve these incredible statistics? Well, Porsche has been hard at work on efficiency and alternative power technology for quite some time.

The company’s traditional range of 911 sports cars has always been known for achieving more with less. Despite frequently wearing the ‘supercar’ label, 911s are smaller, lighter and narrower than their more boisterous competitors.

Porsche has been running development programmes at many levels up to and including its motorsports competition campaigns, in which alternative technologies are at the very least sampled in a bid to boost both competitive performance and technological know-how.

Porsche has made great use of regenerative power systems in several of its race cars. The technology is also used widely in many of today’s hybrid passenger vehicles.

Typically, power generated under braking is turned into electricity, which is sent back into the battery pack of a hybrid vehicle. Porsche, however, has done a lot of racing in recent years with adapted 911 racers that use compact mechanical flywheels to store the energy produced under braking. This power is then redeployed later, under acceleration, to give a little extra boost, similar to that enjoyed by a turbocharged engine.

Porsche’s competition success is most definitely seen in the new 918 Spyder. For starters, the V8 engine, which Porsche says is actually bigger than 4.0 litres, is a development of the Porsche RS Spyder competition engine the company used to great effect in several international motorsports series.

Power from the V8 engine drives the rear wheels through the company’s signature PDK gearbox. The PDF (Porsche-Doppelkupplung) gearbox uses two clutches and offers automatic shifts through seven gears.

Providing added forward momentum are two electric motors. One motor drives each of the front and the rear axles. This also endows the 918 Spyder with all-wheel drive for added grip and stability.

Porsche has fitted a liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery pack to hold electrical charge and the 918 Spyder can be charged using a standard domestic power outlet.

How much will all this fancy and fabulous technology cost you? Porsche expects its electric super-porker to cost US$845,000.  Which isn’t exactly a cheap electric car!

Buyers had better break out the piggy bank pretty darn quickly though. The company says it will only build 918 examples.

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