First Look: Porsche 918 RSR Hybrid

Michael Febbo

While we are sure Porsche's engineers care just as much about trees and puppies as the next guy, they haven't always been focused primarily on building environmentally friendly cars. It does quite often happen as a byproduct of building racing cars however. A passion for endurance racing is a passion for efficiency, which equates, in a roundabout way to being good for the environment. Their latest ground pounding, track melting, green machine the 918 RSR is another step in taking hybrid technology to a new level of performance.

People familiar with Porsche know the brand is famous for beating race cars within an inch of their lives to prove the technology is sound before making it to production. Starting with the 911 GT3 R Hybrid, research is pounding along at a qualifying pace on development of Porsche's flywheel based Kinetic Energy Recovery System. The 918 RSR is serving as the latest development mule for that system, and it's a good sign of what's in store for Porsche's next supercar offering.

The 918 Spyder, upon which the RSR's design is based, was first shown at the 2010 Geneva auto show. It was thought that the concept car, which blends traditional Porsche mid-engine styling and modern technology, would be pushed into production quickly as the next flagship supercar. But since even the concept was billed as a hybrid, the development is taking a decent amount of time, even by Porsche standards.

The 918 RSR looks to be another step forward toward making the 918 a production car reality. Its monocoque is built from carbon-reinforced plastic. The chassis is similar to that of the RS Spyder race car, and while not cheap or easy to manufacture, offers race car-level rigidity and lightness. The mid-mounted, direct-injection 3.4-liter V-8 is also derived directly from the RS Spyder race program. The 918 RSR version produces 563-horsepower at 10,300 rpm, roughly 50-horspower more than the intake-restricted versions ever produced in the race car. The KERs system adds 204-horsepower with the push of a button through two 75 kiloWatt motors mounted in each front wheel. The electric motors not only provide up to eight seconds of additional thrust when the system is fully charged, but also act as generators under braking, providing the power to spin the flywheel energy storage device to a maximum of 36,000 rpm.

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