GREEN: First Look: 2011 Porsche 918 Spyder Hybrid Concept
“The strategic aim is to demonstrate that even a supercar can be environmentally friendly. XG10 promises total driving pleasure—and a clear conscience. This is a trendsetting and sustainable premium product that uses the issue of social acceptability to its advantage. And it reflects the legacy of Ferry Porsche, who was convinced that sports cars would never go out of fashion.”
XG10 stands for X1, Geneva 2010. X1 is the code name of the 918 Spyder, which is only one version of many. Potential variations include a 918 coupe, an electric 918, and a 918 RS/RSR. This car can be either two- or four-wheel drive, have plug-in electric or gasoline power, come with an open top or a fixed roof, and be either a racer or a street machine. Its genetic evolution dates back to the 1997 Porsche GT1, which was a Le Mans–winning 911 on steroids. That car triggered project LMP 2000 (Porsche’s exciting Le Mans comeback car), which was halted at the eleventh hour by then-chairman Wendelin Wiedeking, who was always more of a numbers man than a car guy.
Thankfully, Wiedeking and his controller, Holger Härter, allowed Dürheimer to pick up the LMP pieces and convert them into the street-legal Carrera GT, which was launched in 2003 and found 1250 takers. In 2006, Porsche moved on to form the basis of the successful RS Spyder. Four years later, we’re witnessing the debut of XG10, which still uses several Carrera GT elements, such as the front suspension and the forward structure. For 2011, insiders are already predicting LMP1, a race version of the 918 Spyder, which would comply with planned hybrid-friendly Le Mans regulations.
“In terms of performance, XG10 will even eclipse the Carrera GT,” promises a beaming Dürheimer. “In terms of fuel consumption, it beats every microcar. It really does combine the best of both worlds. Thanks to the modularity of the engineering concept, hybridization can quickly filter down to the 911 and the Boxster, if required. Better still, all the R&D work was done in-house—and that includes the performance electronics and the electric motors. There was not a single systems supplier involved in the gestation process. As a result, we own all the intellectual property rights.”
The team of fifty specialists was led by Gernot Döllner, a seasoned and multitalented vehicle engineer. We asked him to name the three most critical crossroads of the concept-defining process. “XG10 started off as a conventional hybrid but then switched to the more practical and more advanced plug-in concept. The number of electric motors and where to position them was also an issue. In the end, we decided to integrate the rear motor in the housing of the seven-speed dual-clutch PDK transmission. We are still experimenting with the packaging of the cooling system. The best solution may be a nose-mounted, low-temperature circuit complemented by a pair of mid-mounted, high-temperature radiators. The body style is not yet cast in stone. Although the show car is a Spyder, generating a coupe version would be simple.”
The design of the low-noise, low-emissions crowd-stopper is the work of Hakan Saracoglu, who works for department chief Michael Mauer. Inspired by such legendary Porsche racing cars as the 908 Spyder and the 917 Le Mans coupe, as well as by the current ALMS RS Spyder, the former Mercedes-Benz and Saab designer masterminded the creation of an emphatically modern sports car with a few familiar touches.
“In a way, the 918 is two cars in one,” explains the soft-spoken design director. “Its character can change from mild to wild and vice versa—mild as in wafting along in eco mode, wild as in switching the drive program selector to sport or race. In mild, the car benefits from the relatively low weight and strong aerodynamic performance. In wild, it improves downforce and stability by extending the adjustable wing, and it raises the two ram-air intake scoops to further enhance thermodynamic efficiency. Design-wise, it was our mission to visualize a brand-new, unique, and revolutionary vehicle concept. Big wheels were a must, the stance had to be positively ground-hugging, and an unmistakable front end was imperative, as was a pacesetting mix of classic curvatures and contemporary creases. There is no doubt that the XG10 marks an important evolution of our design language, certain elements of which are bound to appear on future production models.”