High Horsepower. High Torque. High Speed. Hybrid.
Evolution, like death and taxes, cannot be avoided. Everything continues to progress and change, most of the time for the better. Cars are no exception. Safety, design, performance and efficiency continually improve. Now, it seems that the next evolution in high power, high performance cars is upon us.
Apart from a few exceptions (Franz Kravogl, Gustave Trouvé and Thomas Davenport developed viable electric cars in the late 1800s), we started with naturally aspirated internal combustion engines. Displacements, outputs, reliability and fuel & mechanical efficiency have progressed significantly over time, but the fundamentals have remained the same. Fuel is compressed, ignited and exploded within an enclosed space, and the linear force is converted to rotational force and transferred to the drive wheels. Essentially the same process that drove the Ford Model T drives the Spyker C8. Over the past century, car companies have spent huge amounts of money developing new gasoline or diesel powered motors to suit their performance needs.
If developing a new naturally aspirated power plant with the desired oomph was too costly, too complicated or took too long, engineers could simply add forced induction via a turbocharger or supercharger to a weaker engine. Adding horsepower boosting components to an internal combustion engine is relatively inexpensive and simple.
It’s that same principle of adding components to a base gas motor that has led to the newest innovation in powering supercars. If having one power plant is good, two must be better and three must be awesome. So, to use the heretofore vehicularly vulgar term, hybrids have come into play. Now, I know, traditionally, any suggestion of an average hybrid to a car enthusiast will be met with, shall we say, derision. But, with their Karma, Fisker has started to change to perception of hybrids into something that is beginning to resemble performance. And Porsche and Ferrari have taken it, not one, not two, but twenty steps further.
|Porsche 918 Spyder Hybrid|
At the 2010 Geneva Auto Show, Porsche unveiled the concept for the 918 Spyder, a followup halo car to the famed Carrera GT. Unlike the Carrera GT, the 918 Spyder is a plug-in hybrid. The production version will go on sale in September for around $1 million.
What makes the 918 different (and worth the price of eleven Porsche 911 Turbos) is the power generation through the conjunction of a 570 horse 4.6 liter V-8 and two electric motors (producing an additional 200 hp) while maintaining stratospheric fuel efficiency. Yes, that is 770 horses from a hybrid that gets 78 miles per gallon. 78 MPG! I’ll say it again, 78 MPG! It even has a range of 16 miles on electric only. All that while hitting 60 mph in under three seconds and 201 miles at the top. Not your daddy’s Prius, is it?
Never one to be outshone, Ferrari is bringing their own hybrid supercar to the party in the form of the Enzo replacing F70. The match up between the Porche 918 Spyder and the Ferrari F70 is shaping up to be a hybrid powered Stuttgart & Maranello rematch following the heavyweight bout between the Carrera GT and the Ferrari Enzo.
|Ferrari’s Hybrid Kinetic Energy Recovery System|
While no other details of the F70 have been released, Ferrari has given us some tantalizing hints as to the nature of its upcoming flagship car. Chiefly, its hybrid power plant is going to be incredible.
Unlike the engine from the Enzo, which was developed from scratch for that project, the hybrid system for the F70 was first unveiled as an experimental motor on the 599 GTB hybrid concept, which itself was an offshoot of development done by Ferrari’s Formula One team. The Hybrid Kinetic Energy Recovery System, or HY-KERS for short, has been modified for the mid-rear engine layout of the F70.
The F70’s HY-KERS uses dual electric motors making around 120 hp mated to an estimated 7 liter, 800 hp V-12. Yep, 920 ponies, give or take. One electric motor is mounted at the 7-speed dual clutch gearbox adding power to the rear wheels and the other is powering the car’s electrical systems, i.e. the power steering, air conditioning, etc. No word on fuel economy, but HY-KERS does produce about 10 percent more power on 40 percent less emissions compared to a fully internal combustion V-12. Betting that Ferrari will make the chassis and body of the F70 as light and aerodynamic as possible, we’re looking at 0-60 times of well under three seconds, especially if Ferrari can hit its goal of 1.34 hp per kilogram of motor & battery.
We should see both the 918 Spyder and the F70 on the roads soon-ish, and both should be a blast to drive, even if they are the automotive equivalent of cyborgs. For the first time, I am definitely looking forward to a head-to-head comparison between hybrids. Way better than Prius vs. Volt. Maybe the word “hybrid” isn’t a derogatory term any more. It certainly is the next evolution in automotive performance. I wonder what’s next. Fingers crossed for hover-cars…