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.
While not small, the flywheel does fit in the space that would normally accommodate a passenger inside the gentleman racer-inspired cockpit. Oh, the high price of being green. Porsche has made sure the driver, while alone, will still race in comfort with leather covering everything from the racing bucket to the dash. The 918 Spyder show car features a touch-sensitive center console that looks as futuristic as it is heavy and complicated. In the RSR, the Apple-inspired infotainment system has been replaced with less techie but far more functional toggle switches and push-buttons. To keep some amount of awe factor, the interior still features loads of bare carbon-fiber that can be appreciated once you lift what Porsche describes as obliquely opening doors.
Styling of the 918 RSR, like the Spyder, is reminiscent of mid-engine cars from Porsche's past. The bubble cockpit and rounded flares both recall the lines of 908 and the top-mounted fan between the buttressed rear window comes straight from the 917. Small winglets on the front and the large pedestal spoiler on the rear tie into the RS Spyder, but also are commonplace on most modern racing cars. The base color on the car is Liquid-Metal Chrome Blue, complimented by Porsche Hybrid Orange for the stripes and brake calipers. The center lock 19-inch wheels are finished in black to emphasize the car's sporting intentions.
There is still no word on when or if Porsche intends to bring the 918 into production. The 911 GT3 R Hybrid is already an excellent rolling laboratory for Kinetic Energy Recovery Technology, it's hard to imagine that Porsche would have built this car if they weren't interested in further development of the 918 for production. If more hybrids were developed like this, maybe we would all have an easier time being green.