In the last 24 hours we entered a new golden age of unreal supercars, ushered in by the McLaren P1, Porsche 918 Spyder, and Ferrari LaFerrari. They are all their own unique interpretations of the ethos of each brand. But they all have one thing in common: They're all hybrids.
When you normally think of a hybrid, you think boring. You think heavy. You think slow. You think pious environmentalist that is holier than thou (well, at least I tend to). There are advantages in fuel economy, but price and weight are a limiting factor for a lot of enthusiasts.
So then why have Ferrari, McLaren, and Porsche decided to include their own variations on these systems in their ultimate cars?
It's because Ferrari, McLaren, and Porsche aren't automakers. I bet you thought they were. In reality, Ferrari, McLaren, and Porsche are tech companies. They've been on the cutting edge for years in everything they built, whether it be mechanically or aerodynamically. Before these cars, the three companies had developed some of the most advanced chassis and engine electronics in the car industry. An extension to electric propulsion only seems natural.
Now they can claim the same superiority when it comes to hybrid tech.
All of the cars use super-lightweight systems that required a substantial amount of time and engineering in order to accomplish. All three systems are unbelievably complicated.
As an example, in the McLaren, the electric motor boosts propulsion, fills in gaps in torque, and keeps the turbo spooled up in order to provide maximum performance. It can totally declutch from the drivetrain and can be called up on-demand in order to provide a boost of power.
It's just like KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) on a Formula One car.
Ferrari has included two electric motors — one for the wheels and one for the electrics — as well as a floor full of batteries. The result is a low center of gravity, an extra 163 horsepower, and a weight gain of just 132 pounds. It sounds like it's worth it.
Porsche wanted to show off just how advanced their hybrid tech is, so it's used for both The 918 Spyder can go 15 miles in electric only mode and reach speed of 100 MPH. One set of motors power the front wheels but can totally disengage to keep that traditional Porsche character alive and well.
Curbweights for the McLaren and Ferrari haven't been confirmed yet, but are supposed to be quite spry. Currently, the Porsche is estimated to be around 3,400 to 3,800 pounds, making it fairly portly and a good bit heavier than Porsche's last supercar, the 3,000 pound Carrera GT.
In all three cars, the systems work to boost performance. Sure, they boost economy too, but owners of these cars won't give a rat's ass about economy. But if they are driven around town, both the McLaren and Porsche 918 can run silently on electric power for a few miles. The LaFerrari cannot, which Ferrari says wouldn't fit the mission of this model.
But Ferrari also said that they have built the system so it can do that in future applications, like on a possible hybrid version of the F12 Berlinetta that I'm speculating about right now with no evidence whatsoever.
Even though the buyers of the cars aren't interested in an increase in economy and a decrease in CO2 emissions, European governments are. There are stringent CO2 regulations across the European Union that need to be met. By reducing CO2 emissions AND enhancing performance, the three companies will be able to build insane cars like this for the foreseeable future.
That's what we want to see.