Supercars are built for one thing: speed. They are the epitome of engineering. Supercars combine speed, power and luxury to create the ultimate desirable car. They are the most expensive and most powerful cars on the planet. While out of reach for most of us, they show us a future of driving. They point to what is possible in engineering and they are always pushing the boundaries. This is why we love them.
However, one thing we couldn’t possibly have anticipated is the rise of hybrid supercars. Hybrid engines were a concept that intended to curb fossil fuel use and emissions. By their very nature, they slowed cars down and reduced engine potential. Yet, here we find ourselves with a new generation of supercars featuring this technology. The Porsche 918 Spyder is perhaps the best known of these. But the BMWi8, the McLaren P1 and LeFerrari are other fine examples.
Now it seems that Mercedes are ready to step in to the ring with their own supercar. The AMG GT is their flagship supercar model. It is beautiful, futuristic and fast as hell with its 4.0 litre, turbocharged V8 engine. It is this AMG that will soon find itself with a hybrid heart, if rumours are to be believed. There are also rumours that the legendary Acura (Honda outside USA) NSX is to return with a hybrid engine. Amidst this sudden leap forward in technology, we certainly hope these rumours are true.
With this huge boom of hybrid supercars, it leaves us asking ‘how?’ and ‘why?’ this has happened. Surely this technology is at odds with speed and power? Well, that’s not actually true. Let’s take a look into this new generation in a bit more detail.
The hybrid engine was first brought to mainstream attention through the Toyota Prius. It was a revolutionary new concept that took years to gain mass appeal. Originally launched in Japan, the Prius didn’t spark any fires in the motoring world. Even when it finally arrived on US shores, it was not universally accepted by motorists. We weren’t sure we wanted, or needed this new technology.
At its core, hybrid cars work by harnessing the power of two engines. There’s an electric motor and a traditional combustion engine. The electric motor acts as the primary force behind the movement. It is powered by an electric battery than can be plugged in at home or recharged at a charge station. The traditional combustion engine is there to take over if it’s more efficient to do so. It will also run if the electric charge runs out completely. In some cars, the traditional combustion engine will recharge the electric battery.
It’s a fairly simple technology, but it took a long time to catch on. Many commentators estimate that Toyota didn’t make any money from the Prius for ten years. It took a long time for public opinion to change because it was such a big infrastructure change. Firstly there was the issue of maintenance on a new technology. It took a while for electric car servicing to become universal. Nowadays, most garages like GK Servicing can complete all the essential maintenance on a hybrid. The other reason was the low power and range of the engine. At first, the cars were slow and could only do a certain number of miles before the battery ran out. Ultimately, this contributed to the perception that electric cars could never be fast.
This isn’t the case, they just weren’t at first, because this wasn’t their goal. The Prius aimed to reduce emissions and increase fuel efficiency. Over time, this technology adapted. It became powerful. It became fast. Now, we are seeing hybrid engines in everything from estate cars to gas guzzling SUVs to supercars. One of the fastest growing car companies in the world is Tesla. Tesla are dedicated exclusively to electric cars and they both fast and fuel efficient. It is no longer a case of one or the other.
If you think about it, hybrid engines have incredible potential for speed and power. There are two engines! That means the potential for twice as much horsepower. It means balancing out the efficiency and harnessing each engine at its most powerful point. This is where the supercars are really making the most of the technology. In fact, they are making huge strides forward in power and speed.
Take this as one huge example: the fastest production car around the Nurburgring is a hybrid. Just let that one sink in for a while and think about how far we’ve come. The Porsche 918 Spyder is a mid engine hybrid that can outrun every other production car. It has a 4.6 litre V8 combustion engine that will get 608 horsepower. That sits alongside two electric motors that will deliver another 450 horsepower between them. That’s over 1000 brake horsepower driving the wheels. It’s no wonder it smashed the Nurburgring lap time.
The Porsche 918 Spyder isn’t alone either. BMW have the fascinating i8 on the road. It is another mid engine hybrid and will reach speeds of 150mph. It will do 0-60 in 4.4 second and still run a modest fuel efficiency. Not only that, but they’re working on a wireless charging system. McLaren have just unveiled a road legal version of its powerful McLaren P1. They are calling it the successor to the legendary F1. All supercar manufacturers are looking to hybrid power for their future.
Mercedes are no different with the strong speculation that they have started work on their hybrid version. They confirmed last May that they would almost certainly produce one eventually. Though they couldn’t say when or what it would look like. It seems now, however, that they are stepping up to take on Porsche and McLaren with their very own rival.
The future for both speed and fuel efficiency looks bright. Now that car manufacturers have unlocked speed from electric motors, there’s a real future. We are only just at the cusp of this technology and their are limitless directions to go from here. If we keep unlocking the secrets of speed, power and efficiency, we will create a new generation of motoring.
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