Earlier today, Porsche unveiled the Porsche 919 Hybrid — a car which returns it to the top-class motorsport in a category which puts energy efficiency at the top of the bill.
“The 919 Hybrid is our fastest mobile research laboratory,” said Porsche Chairman Matthias Müller “.. and the most complex race car that Porsche has ever built.”
Despite sounding like a science experiment, the 919 Hybrid is designed first and foremost to be fast, fast enough to depose the all-conquering Audi R18 e-tron quattro which returns to the championship after a dominant 2013 season.
The 919 Hybrid is powered by a 500bhp+ V-four petrol engine, which also serves as a load-bearing member in the chassis. The ‘hybrid’ part of its name comes from the lithium-ion power pack which receives its energy from two sources; firstly a generator on the front axle that recovers kinetic energy during braking, plus a new system to recover thermal energy from exhaust gases.
When needed, an electric motor on the front axle converts stored energy to additional power – temporarily transforming the 919 Hybrid into an all-wheel drive vehicle. The company calls this “Porsche Intelligent Performance” and has taken a dedicated team of 200 people just over two and a half years to develop.
It’s the most complex race car Porsche has ever built, taking the know-how gained from running the 2010 911 GT3 R Hybrid and 918 Spyder, as well as the hybridised production versions of the Panamera and Cayenne.
The WEC’s new 2014 regulations for LMP1 sports cars provide the latitude for manufacturers to innovate, with fuel efficiency rather than outright performance being the only way to ensure success.
Porsche have approached this new challenge with relish and will use the 919 Hybrid to further develop its road cars, embracing the virtues of lightweight design, smaller capacity combustion engines and the rapidly evolving field of hybrid petrol-electric powerplants.
The 919 Hybrid joins the Toyota TS040 hybrid and Audi R18 e-tron quattro at the pre-season shakedown test at Le Castellet on the 28th and 29th March, while the 2014 WEC season kicks off on 20th April at the 6 Hours of Silverstone.