Porsche is showing off some design concepts that never came into existence, and among the most interesting are a weird van-like vehicle called the Porsche Vision Renndienst, and a street version of the legendary 919 Hybrid LMP1 Le Mans winner called the 919 Street. Check these things out.
Porsche, on the prowl for some publicity for a new book called “Porsche Unseen,” has released photos and details of design studies that the company’s stylists have penned over the last 15 years. Perhaps most interesting is the 919 Street, a beautiful sports car that apparently drew inspiration from the Porsche 919 Hybrid that won the LMP1 class of the 24 Hours of Le Mans three times in a row.
The idea behind this full-scale clay model, Porsche says, was to create a road-going version of the legendary race car. “The Porsche 919 Street (2017; 1:1 clay model),” the brand writes in its press release, “was developed on the basis of the technology used in the Porsche 919 Hybrid, promising to make the exhilarating driving experience of the LMP1 race car available to amateur drivers.” The literature goes on to say that the carbon fiber monocoque chassis and 900-ish horsepower hybrid drivetrain is the same as what was in the Porsche 919, as is the wheelbase and other exterior dimensions.
In the scripted interview shown below (incidentally, a rather awkward format that European carmakers seem to like to employ during press briefings for some reason), chief designer Michael Mauer says the concept car actually had a chance at becoming a real thing.
“What is always our intention,” he says, “is that these models always are a starting point for discussion in the company if it would make sense to realize this, to bring it on the street.” That never happened because, per the design boss, “This racing technology is so complicated and highly complex, that it would be hard to give it really into customer hands.”
I’m going to assume this means it would have been too costly — financially and time-wise — for Porsche to build a compelling business case for the program.
I won’t go too deep into it, but since we’re talking about the 919 Hybrid, it’s worth mentioning just how incredible of a machine it was. Porsche’s got an article titled “How the technology of the 919 Hybrid works” to satisfy your nerdy hybrid race car needs, so definitely check that out.
One of the coolest things about the Le Mans winner is the fact that it has two recuperation mechanisms to feed an 800-volt lithium-ion battery powering the electric motor on the front axle: One recuperation mechanism is brake-based, and the other generates current via an exhaust-driven turbine. Here’s Porsche’s rundown:
During braking, a generator at the front axle converts the car’s kinetic energy into electrical energy. In the split exhaust system, one turbine drives the turbocharger while another converts surplus energy into electrical energy. The braking energy contributes 60 per cent, with the remaining 40 per cent coming from exhaust gas.
The recuperated electrical energy is stored temporarily in a lithium-ion battery and feeds an electric motor on demand. “On demand” means: the driver wants to accelerate and calls up the energy at the press of a button. In accordance with the latest regulation changes, the power from the combustion engine is just under 368 kW (500 HP), and the output from the electric motor is well over 294 kW (400 HP).
Between this hybrid tech and the lightweight carbon fiber body, you can imagine how awesome the Porsche 919 Street would have been had it ever come to fruition.
Porsche also showed off an odd, van-like design concept called the Porsche Vision Renndienst. Per Mauer, the idea behind this study was to push stylists to try to infuse Porsche design “DNA” into a rather un-Porsche-like vehicle — a tall van.
What we see here is not a clay model like the 919 Street, but a “hard model,” which BBC defined in its 2016 story about the continued prevalence of clay into the field of automotive design. From that story:
As a design reaches maturity, items like headlights and turn signals get added to clay to turn it into a “hard model.” The entire model is then coated with a stretchable modelling film (known, Kleenex-like, by the original trade name DI-NOC) that mimics the look and feel of a painted surface. (“From 10 feet away you’d never know it wasn’t a functioning car,” says VandenBrink.) The design remains flexible, though, with clay being smoothed on or scraped off until the final design is approved by corporate executives milling around in some secret interior courtyard. Once that happens, a model (still nonfunctional, but very expensive) of fiberglass or resin, perfect inside and out, is created for people to see at press events and car shows.
Per Porsche, the Renndienst concept features (or perhaps “would feature,” since this isn’t a functional vehicle) a central driver’s seat, an all-electric drivetrain below the floor, and lots of interior space for six passengers.
I think both of these vehicles look great and really complement one another. You’ve got a clean, spacious van-ish, hatchback-y looking thing for daily driving with the family, and a hybrid race car-turned-supercar for punishing canyon roads. It’d be a thoroughly wacky garage, but a complete one, I think.