Follow-up to the 918 Spyder to be petrol-electric, not pure EV
Is this the next Porsche hypercar and the successor to the stunning 918 Spyder? Officially, no. These are mere renders. But Porsche’s chairman Oliver Blume spoke earlier this year of plans to produce a follow up to the 918 and now further details of Porsche’s next hypercar have emerged including an F1-derived powertrain.
That’s right, according to sources inside Porsche, Formula One power is on the cards for its next ultimate sports car. If that seems unlikely given Porsche doesn’t participate in F1, cast your minds back to late 2017 when we brought you news that Porsche was evaluating a tilt at the world’s premiere motorsport category as an engine supplier, possibly partnered with Williams. Porsche ultimately decided against that particular adventure in favour of the arguably more forward looking Formula E series. But work had already begun on a powertrain compatible with F1’s current rules, which involve a petrol-electric hybrid system based around a 1.6-litre turbo V6. It’s that very powertrain Porsche insiders indicate is being developed for this new road-going application.
Putting an F1 powertrain into a road car is, of course, a huge technical challenge, even in the context of the series’ prevailing rules which put a premium on longevity and reliability. But if Porsche does indeed take this route, it will likely be beaten to market by Mercedes with its AMG One hypercar, which is also due to harness F1 power for the road.
Allegedly, Porsche’s F1 unit originally started as a 2.0-litre engine designed to replace its V4 Le Mans engine from the 919 Hybrid, only to switch to 1.6-litres when F1 became the target. The engine has thus been in development in some form for at least two years. Earlier this year, Porsche’s motorsport boss Fritz Enzinger revealed a team of 40 engineers had been working on the project, which he said was, “not only on paper but also hardware.” In other words, actual working engines rather than just computer designs, have been created. The engine is, “complete and running on the test bench,” Enzinger says.
Of course, if that much is known, there’s no word on the powertrain’s detailed specifications. It’s hard to imagine it won’t be significantly more powerful than the 918 Spyder, however. That car developed a total system power of 887 metric horsepower or around 875bhp from a 4.6-litre atmospheric V8 and a pair of electric motors. With the 918 acting as a metaphorical backstop, the new car will surely develop somewhere north of 1000hp.
Moreover, if history provides any kind of yardstick, then the new hypercar will probably crank out at least 1250hp. After all, if you take the step from the 612PS Carrera GT to the 887PS 919 Spyder as a guide, then expectations of at absolute minimum several hundred additional horsepower follow. What’s more, with several electric hypercars like the Rimac C_Two offering up to 2000hp, the market has moved on dramatically even since the 918 appeared in late 2013. Likewise, without the limitations imposed by F1 rules, Porsche is free to utilise a much more powerful electric motor and a larger battery to boost performance.
Of course, there’s plenty of form at Porsche when it comes to competition engines in street cars. The modern 911 GT models have typically used race-derived engines, starting with the hallowed Mezger unit. But the Carrera GT offers an even closer parallel. That car’s 5.7-litre V10 was originally intended for a Le Mans racer. But just like Porsche’s more recent F1 flirtation, the project was cancelled before it ever hit the race track only for the engine to be reborn in the Carrera GT.
Arguably the most surprising thing about all this is not the F1 powertrain but that Porsche isn’t going pure electric. After all, Porsche is making a major push towards electrification generally, has launched its first EV in the Taycan and is expected to replace the 718 twins with an electric sports car around 2023.
The problem is the size and weight of existing lithium-based battery technology. Porsche doesn’t think it’s good enough for a pure-electric hypercar.
Porsche’s sports cars boss, Frank Walliser, says that current EV tech is great for acceleration times, but less optimal for handling, usability and repeatable performance. “I don’t think that would work with technology at its current state,” Walliser says of a pure-electric hypercar.
The final question is that of launch timing. You won’t get a word out of Porsche on the matter officially, but the car is likely several years away. It was 10 years between the launch of the Carrera GT and the 918 Spyder. If that’s repeated, expect an F1-powered hyper-Porsche around 2023.