The world’s first plug-in hybrid supercar

…This is most definitely not a Prius.

The 918 prototype you see here was in bits and pieces just a few weeks ago, and it’s one of only three in existence. The Porsche team assigned with 918 development arrived in Italy in early January and furiously began testing all the components before slapping together an assortment of chopped and mismatched 911 bodywork to get it ready for the track. And us.

Few outsiders get access to a vehicle this early in the development process – not even a cheap econobox, let alone a next-generation halo vehicle in Frankenstein form. But Porsche wants to show off what it’s been up to and give us a taste of how it’s reworking the recipe for world-beating performance…

The formula for the 918 starts in stereotypical supercar fashion: mount a race-bred V8 amidships that sends power to the rear wheels. In this case, Porsche pulled a variant of the 4.6-liter V8 originally fitted to the three-time ALMS LMP2 Championship-winning RS Spyder. That engine put out a comparatively paltry 503 horsepower, but fitted to the 918, output is up to 570 hp. That figure is before you account for the 918′s two electric motors, and it’s also where the similarities to past supercars ends. Abruptly…

The 918 Spyder is a full parallel hybrid, with a 90 kW electric motor sandwiched between the engine and seven-speed transmission. Easy enough for a Toyota, but Porsche takes things three steps further.

Another 80 kW electric motor is mounted on the front axle, powering the two front wheels and effectively making the 918 all-wheel-drive on-demand. That motor alone is good enough to get the 918 up to speed and driving around town on just electricity for 16 miles, but the combination of the two electric motors – on their own more powerful than the 1974 911 Turbo – and the mid-engine V8 singing at 9,000 rpm brings total output up to 770 hp, with an even more impressive 553 pound-feet of torque available across the rev range.

Flick the steering wheel mounted switch into “Hot Lap” mode and in third gear Porsche claims you’ll be thrusted forward with an overboosted total of 700 lb-ft of twist. That’s good for a zero to 60 mph run of less than 3 seconds, 124 mph in less than 9 seconds and on to a top speed of 202 mph. And if you’ve got enough juice from the liquid-cooled, lithium-ion battery pack, you can hit 90 mph without using a single drop of fuel…

The entire chassis is a mix of carbon fiber and aluminum, including the passenger compartment and associated crash structure, which weighs in at a scant 485 pounds. Carbon fiber construction has come a long way since Porsche’s last super car, the Carrera GT, and Porsche illustrates that by pointing out that the passenger tub of the GT took five days to make. Today, they can crank out five 918 tubs a day thanks to new innovations in composites and assembly methods.

All told, the production version will tip the scales at less than 3,700 pounds – not bad for something packing a brace of batteries – but more importantly, nearly 80-percent of the weight is below the centerline of the car, giving the 918 the proper amount of grip to match it’s hybrid-electrified go.

Enjoy the tale of the ride. Let your brain spin over the engineering marvels Porsche has crafted together in a single example of sculpture in motion. Lots of photos and details in the article.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

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