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Porsche and Ferrari Offer High-Horsepower Hybrids

May 3, 2010
Porsche and Ferrari offer high-horsepower hybrids.
Ferrari S.p.A.,
Porsche Cars North America,
Williams Hybrid Power,

To motorheads and car aficionados, hybrids probably have about as much appeal as minivans. There’s not much power or sex appeal to either of them. Sure there’s the Tesla, but it’s not a hybrid. Recently, however, it seems Green fever has caught on even in the design studios devoted traditionally to pure speed and performance, including Porsche and Ferrari. Here are a trio of hybrids from two of the premier European carmakers.

Ferrari 599
One of the few Ferraris that come in green, the 200-mph 599 hybrid boasts a 6-liter V12 up front and an 88-lb electric motor on the rear axle. The motor cranks out 100 hp, about as much as a Ford Fiesta. The car can be driven in one of three modes: gas, gas-electric hybrid, or electric only. The motor attaches to a seven-speed gearbox and supplies power in odd-numbered gears to smooth out power increases in hybrid mode.

The motor and two lithium-ion battery packs replace the traditional battery and starter motor, saving some weight. And the battery packs are less than an inch thick, store about 3 kW-hr, and sit under the car’s floor pan, which lowers the center of gravity and improves handling. Still, the electric hybrid option, which should work on front and rear-wheel-drive vehicles, adds 175 lb to the current prototype, weight Ferrari will want to trim before going to production.

Ferrari’s five-year goal is to offer a hybrid option on all its cars by 2015. This should keep the company’s line of vehicles within the European Union’s antipollution and antigas-guzzler regulations, rules that could keep Ferrari from selling any vehicles in Europe.

The two-seater accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 3.5 sec, quicker than the conventionally powered 559 GTB Fiorano on which the hybrid is based. CO2 emissions are 270 gm/km, a 35% cut from the Fiorano’s emissions, and mileage went from 16 to 25 mpg. And although the conventional 599 costs about $310,000, the eco-friendly 599 Hybrid will set you back an estimated $450,000.

Porsche 911 GT3 R
Porsche has contracted with Williams Hybrid Power to develop a racing version of its 911 GT3, with plans to work the kinks out of the hybrid setup on the race track before putting it in production vehicles for consumers. The goal is to develop components for a flywheel-based hybrid system that uses 30% less fuel than a conventional design and cost less than $1,600.

The racing coupe gets power from a 4-liter, six-cylinder engine sending 480 hp to the rear wheels and a 60-kW electric motor on each front wheel. A flywheel generator sits next to the driver in the cabin. It, rather than a bank of heavy batteries, stores energy. It charges when the car brakes, turning the two front motors into generators. Once the flywheel is spinning at top speed, about 40,000 rpm, it can supply a burst of 160 hp to the front motors for about 6 to 8 sec. This means extra power for passing or when coming out of a turn, or for better gas mileage.

The flywheel generator makes use of magnetically loaded composites, a material technology originally developed at British Nuclear Fuels by engineers designing centrifuges to enrich uranium. The technology lets engineers at Williams add magnetic particles to the composite that will be used to make the flywheel’s rotor. After the rotor is formed, it is flash magnetized so the particles embedded in the composite create just the right magnetic field. There are no large metallic structures in the rotor and flywheel, which is made of wound filament. This, in turn, means there are no eddy current or heat losses, so electrical efficiency is relatively high. And if the flywheel fractures while spinning, a possibility with high-speed flywheels, it doesn’t throw off dangerous fragments, thus there’s no need for a metal containment enclosure.

Porsche plans to race one of these hybrids in the 24 Hours of LeMans in 2012.

Although there is no real price on the hybrid racer, the base price for a non-hybrid GT3 R is a little over $380,000.

Porsche 918 Spyder
If you go out an buy a 918 Spyder hybrid, unveiled at this year’s Geneva Auto Show, you could lord your “green chops” over Prius owners. Though the Spyder is said to have a top speed of 198 mph, and zoom from 0 to 60 mph in 3.2 sec, and emits 70g CO2/km. For comparison, the third-generation Prius emits 89 gm/km. (Most conventional supercars from Lamborghini and Ferrari put out between 400 and 500 gm/km.)

The Spyder gets most of its power from a 3.8-liter, 500-hp V8, but there is also an electric motor on both front and rear axles. Liquid-cooled lithium batteries, which can recharge via a normal household outlet, power the motors and store energy from braking. The automaker claims the 3,285-lb car gets 78 mpg. To slim down to that figure despite a battery pack, Porsche engineers used carbon-reinforced plastic body panels and a magnesium and aluminum chassis.

The car operates in one of four modes. In E-Drive mode the car travels under electric power alone, giving it a range of 16 miles. In Hybrid mode, electric motors and engine offer a performance range that stretches from fuel-efficient to extra-powerful, depending on road conditions and driver behavior. Sport Hybrid mode also uses motors and the engine, but mainly for performance. Most power goes to the rear wheels. Race Hybrid mode focuses both motors and engine on power. There’s also a push-to-pass button that works when the battery is charged above a certain level. Hitting it adds horsepower to boost performance.

For now, Porsche is calling the 918 Spyder a concept car and says it has no plans for a production version. Of course, a few years back, the CEO of Porsche said hybrids were “technically possible, but not part of the plan.” Now the automaker has two of them.

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