Today’s drivers are more environmentally conscious than ever before, and auto manufacturers have responded by developing hybrid vehicles. These vehicles pair an efficient electric motor with a regular gasoline engine. Although hybrid vehicles do offer impressive gas mileage, they have earned a reputation for being tame. However, today’s supercar manufacturers have decided to prove that being green doesn’t mean that a car has to be boring. Five vehicles in particular have gone out of their way to demonstrate that you can reduce your fuel use while still stealing the heartbeats of passengers and onlookers alike.
Porsche 918 Spyder
Porsche was one of the first manufacturers to deliver a high-performance hybrid supercar. The 918 Spyder draws on the legacy of the GT and features a mid-mounted 608-horsepower V8 engine, based on the engine from the Le Mans RS Spyder. In addition, the 918 includes a pair of electric motors mounted above each axle, giving the car a total of 887 horsepower. The electric motors deliver power directly to the axles, allowing the 918 to accelerate in breathtaking fashion; it can go from 0-60 mph in 2.8 seconds, and its top speed is above 211 mph. The exhaust system is a little unusual; rather than exhausting from the rear of the vehicle, a pair of exhaust cannons, made of a lightweight nickel alloy called Inconel, vent the exhaust directly from the engine out the top of the vehicle.
Although the new 2015 918 Spyder could never be confused for an affordable car with its starting price tag of $847,975, it uses its hefty price to deliver unmatched performance. Its handling, braking and power have allowed it to be one of the only production vehicles able to complete the Nürburgring Nordschleife, a treacherous 14-mile long racing circuit, in under seven minutes.
The Carrera GT styling is evident in its low-slung profile and organic lines paired with aggressive fenders and wicked air inlets to feed the hungry beast of an engine. The interior follows the Porsche tradition, featuring clean, utilitarian lines and a driver-centric interface with a large touchscreen in the center console.
2014 McLaren P1
McLaren’s hybrid entry, the stunning P1, delivers 903 horsepower into a sleek piece of automotive beauty that sold all 375 units in spite of its $1.15 million price tag. The aerodynamic lines of the P1, with its bulbous headlight mounts, hood and door scoops, belie the mechanical wonder sitting within. The rear-mounted 727-horsepower engine works together with a 177-horsepower electric motor to deliver smooth power to the car’s seven-speed transmission. An oversized wing tops the rear of the car, providing downforce to improve handling.
McLaren paired its mechanical wonder with an intelligent control system, outfitting the P1 with several different modes of operation depending on the driver’s whims. With the push of a button, you can shift between normal mode, e-mode (allowing you to drive with only the electric motor for a few miles), sport mode, boost mode and race mode. Although each mode has different driving characteristics, the most dramatic difference comes when you engage the race mode.
In this mode, the P1’s hydraulic suspension lowers the car two inches and raises the rear wing by nearly a foot, giving the vehicle its most aggressive settings. Race mode allows the P1 to go from 0-60 mph in under 2.7 seconds and hit 186 mph in 16.5 seconds before hitting its electronically governed top speed of 217 mph.
Not to be outdone, Ferrari has also added its own hybrid supercar to the mix: the LaFerrari. Many have described the LaFerrari as accelerating like a Bugatti Veyron with better gas mileage. The LaFerrari pairs a 789-horsepower V12 engine with a 167-horsepower electric motor to produce more power per pound of vehicle than any of its rivals. The power train of the LaFerrari is designed to produce ideal power at all times, with the gasoline engine and the electric motor working as one to power the vehicle’s rear-wheel drive transmission. Electricity for the motor is harvested through both the braking system and the traction control system, allowing drivers to recoup some of their speed when they need to slow down.
The LaFerrari is a relative lightweight in its category, weighing a mere 3,489 pounds thanks to extensive use of carbon fiber in the vehicle’s body. A pair of wings in the front and rear of the vehicle help in generating downforce, improving the LaFerrari’s grip. In addition, the wings act as part of a sophisticated control system, channeling incoming air to help cool the engine. Other elements of the control system dynamically adjust the torque, wings and other parts of the vehicle to give the driver the ability to control the LaFerrari’s impressive power at all times.
The driver himself sits in a low-slung seat designed to emulate the interior of an F1 racing car, with a digital dashboard giving the driver a choice of different instrument styles. The seat is fixed in place, but the pedals and steering wheel can be moved to accommodate drivers of different heights.
In 2015, Koenigsegg decided to join in the fun, introducing its new hybrid Regera at the 2015 Geneva Motor show. The vehicle, whose name means “to reign” in Swedish, is designed to dominate through sheer power; it eschews the complex curves common to its rivals in favor of a simple streamlined design that punches through speed barriers. It includes a twin turbo V8 engine and three electric motors, delivering a whopping 1500 horsepower and 1475 pound-feet of torque.
The Regera uses its electric motors to replace the traditional transmission with a new technology called Direct Drive. In the Direct Drive system, each rear wheel has one of the electric motors mounted above it. The engine delivers its power through a single-speed transmission, which is connected to each of the motors. The motors, in turn, deliver the power to the wheels, allowing each wheel to accelerate individually and thereby reducing the amount of power lost to the transmission.
The Direct Drive system works best at speeds above 30 mph, so the Regera runs in electric-only mode below that speed. Even at these lower speeds, however, the Regera is still a mighty beast; its electric motors alone provide nearly 700 horsepower, making its electric setup one of the most powerful yet. It can reach its top speed of 248 mph in under 20 seconds. When in motion, it can make the leap from 93 mph to 155 mph in 3.2 seconds, a remarkable feat of engineering. Although the Regera may be ready to reign, you might need to rule your own country if you want to own one yourself; each vehicle will cost the princely sum of $1,890,000.
BMW didn’t want to sit out from the hybrid supercar dance, bringing its futuristic i8 to the party. The i8 sports 357 total horsepower, split between a 228-horsepower engine to power the rear wheels and a 129-horsepower electric motor to drive the front wheels, with an 11-horsepower electric motor assisting the gasoline engine. It can hit a top speed of 155 mph while delivering 29 mpg, giving the i8 a blend of performance and practicality.
The car achieves some of its performance thanks to BMW’s LifeDrive system, which pairs a carbon fiber body with a traditional chassis to cut back on weight without compromising structural integrity. Although the i8 isn’t nearly as powerful as its fellow hybrid supercars, it does have them beat in one very important way: The i8 sells for a mere $137,495.
BMW didn’t neglect its luxury heritage with the i8, outfitting the car’s interior with rich leather and plenty of accent lighting. The car can alternate between several different modes, with the digital dashboard changing depending on your current mode. In the default mode, called Comfort mode, the car is driven mostly by the front motor, with the gasoline engine providing extra power as needed. EcoPro mode deliberately cuts back on performance to maximize efficiency, and eDrive mode allows you to run the car entirely on the electric motor for up to 22 miles. Finally, in Sports mode, the car prioritizes performance above all else. The eBoost feature is on full display in Sports mode, as the 11-horsepower assist motor kicks in to fill in the gaps as the engine’s turbo spools up. The result is a car that can go from 0-60 in 4.2 seconds, and its electric motors help it to deliver 420 pound-feet of torque almost instantly. When paired with the car’s light weight, the torque allows the i8 to accelerate quickly and smoothly.
As technology has improved and consumers have continued to demand greater efficiency from their vehicles, supercar manufacturers have added many hybrid features to their vehicles. Hybrids and supercars can now be talked about in the same breath without provoking laughter.
What do you think about these hybrid supercars? If you suddenly found yourself in a position to own one of these hybrid supercars, would you take the plunge?