Ferdinand Porsche was always fascinated with electricity even as a teenager. When he was 18 years of age, he installed an electric lighting system in his parent’s house, and in the same year he joined Vereinigte Elektrizitats AG Bela Egger in Vienna. While working there for four years, he was promoted from mechanic to the head of the testing department.
In 1898, he designed and developed the Egger-Lohner C2 Phaeton, an electric car powered with an octagonal electric motor. It had a top speed of 25kmph.
In late 1898 or earlier 1899, Porsche joined the Hofwagenfabrik Ludwig Lohner & Co, a coachbuilder in Vienna. There he was tasked with the development of a new electric car.
Porsche developed an electric wheel hub motor. In 1900, the first Lohner-Porsche Electromobile equipped with electric wheel hub motors was presented at the Paris Expo. The top speed was 37kmph.
This car had a weight of nearly four tons, thanks to the weight of the battery pack. Its the massive size and weight often lead to the failure of pneumatic wheels. Its relatively short range and lack of infrastructure to recharge it meant that it had limited appeal.
Also in 1900, Porsche designed and developed the first functional hybrid car called “Semper Vivus”. This car was also marketed as “System Lohner-Porsche”.
Being a hybrid, its combustion engine was used to drive a generator and thus supply the wheel hub motor with electricity. After further development and testing, the production variant called Lohner-Porsche Mixte was launched a year later.
Despite its advantages such as lower emissions, higher range, and its success at the 1901 Exelberg Rally and several endurance racings events, its massive size and excessive weight due to the battery packs proved that it was impractical.
The idea of electric-powered automobiles and hybrid powertrains was resurrected after a century due to the ever-increasing environmental pollution caused by the emissions of automobiles.
The ever-increasing restrictions on emission regulations and congestion charges forced by the European governments to reduce the usage of fuel-powered vehicles in their metropolitans, meant that the public soon hungered for hybrid cars and electric automobiles. Soon few hybrid automobiles were unveiled to the public.
Porsche 911 GT3 Hybrid
In 2010, a Porsche 911 GT3 R Hybrid was tested at the Nürburgring. This car featured a4.0-liter inline-six engine supported by two electric motors. This car also featured a regenerative braking system. When braking, the two electric motors act as generators that generate electricity to charge a flywheel accumulator with the kinetic energy recovered.
In 2010, Porsche unveiled the Porsche Cayenne Hybrid as the first hybrid to be produced by the company. It was also the first production parallel hybrid vehicle in the premium SUV category.
In 2011, Porsche Panamera S Hybrid was unveiled as a parallel hybrid, making it the first-ever production hybrid in the premium sedan category. It was the most economical with its 6.8-liters per 100km NEDC ratings, despite delivering 416hp thanks to its supercharged 2995 V6 which is incorporating a 95hp electric motor.
In 2014, alongside the Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid, and 2013 Porsche 918 Spyder, Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid was unveiled as the first plug-in hybrid vehicle in the premium SUV category. Porsche also became the first mainstream manufacturer to offer three hybrids in their model lineup.
Project XG10 and its backstory
Porsche 918 Spyder was developed under the supervision of the head of Weissach, Wolfgang Hatz, and then designing chief Michael Mauer.
In September 2009, a small group of designers, engineers, and product schedulers came together to develop the project XG10.
Project XG10 was a groundbreaking supercar, and it was Porsche’s idea of convincing the Porsche customers, enthusiasts, and shareholders that it hasn’t forgotten its old roots. Project XG10 was exactly what Porsche needed to become the manufacturer of an unparalleled supercar in a class of its own.
From early on Porsche engineers and designers working under Wolfgang Hatz and designing chief Michael Mauer decided to develop it as a hybrid to comply with ever strict emission regulations as well as to prove to their customers that they are also willing to do something to save the planet.
Project XG10 was a turning point for Porsche as it was their chance to convince the public that they are committed to environmentally compatible technology and still can manufacture an unparalleled supercar, despite their recently introduced main-stream models such as the Porsche Cayenne and Porsche Panamera and their sales success.
Within a month of the start of the XG10 project, Porsche CEO Wendelin Wiedeking told his fellow executives that his goal was to take control of the Volkswagen group.
To achieve this, he did some financial manipulations, thus increasing the Volkswagen stock prices. This was beneficial for Porsche and since it was slowly edging towards 75% ownership.
By 2008, Porsche could achieve more profit from its financial dealings than from selling cars, because the banks were weakened by the world economic recession and began calling loans for low interests that Wendelin Wiedeking could use to finance Volkswagen stock purchases.
However, the unsuccessful and uncompleted purchase resulted badly for Porsche and it was pushed back onto Volkswagen group. To protect their family business, Porsche and Piech families had to invest their financial fortunes to protect their family business.
As of late July 2009, Porsche wasn’t the owner of Volkswagen group, but its tenth subsidiary.
Wendelin Wiedeking’s bid left the Porsche holding company with debts of €10 billion, whilst he walked away with a severance package of €50million. After his departure from Porsche, Wendelin Wiedeking was charged with market manipulation for his role in the attempted takeover bid. Eventually, the charges were dropped in July 2016 due to a too little chance of success.
Doctor Ferdinand Piech was now in charge of the Porsche, due to his position in the Volkswagen supervisory board. This also meant that many changes were to come in the next few years because Ferdinand Piech’s vision for Porsche was somewhat different than Wendelin Wiedeking’s profit-oriented reign.
Project XG10 is the sort of car that Ferdinand Piech wanted to make and this was exactly what he needed to establish Porsche as the world’s leading sports car manufacturer.
Soon, Frank Steffen Walliser, the head of the Porsche’s hybrid drivetrain development, and Gernot Dollner, director of the vehicle concepts were enlisted with the task of creating a new show car for the Geneva Motor Show, opening 1st of March, 2010. They only had five months to develop the new car.
The new body shape and its styling was clearly an evolution of the Porsche Carrera GT.
The body shell and the interior were created by an Italian firm based in Turin called Vercarmodel Saro. They did complete the body shell and interior during the Christmas Holiday of 2009.
Michael Mauer designed the concept and once it gained approval, engineers and designers went to work on fitting the complex hybrid powertrain, consisting of an internal combustion V8 engine and two electric motors into the body.
After their work was done, the hurriedly completed car left for Turin after midnight, the morning of its debut in Geneva Motor Show.
The car was now officially known as the Porsche 918 Spyder.
Following a pre unveiling run-through, the engineers decided to recharge the car, but some electronics went wrong and this caused all the electronics to malfunction, effectively making the car stationary.
Soon Weissach’s top engineers were inbound to Geneva in a private jet. After they worked on the car for some time, it came to life just two hours before the unveiling.
Porsche 918 Spyder performed flawlessly on the stage and new Porsche Chairman Michael Macht unveiled it with a claim that Porsche had never made a concept car that it didn’t actually produce later on.
Frank Steffen Walliser was chosen as the head of the production of the Porsche 918 Spyder due to his experience as the head of hybrid drivetrain development.
Within days, more than a thousand orders were received for the Porsche 918 Spyder. Following this warm reception for the car, Porsche’s authority board decided to give their approval for production. Porsche’s Zuffenhaussen plant was chosen to manufacture the car.
By the fall of 2011, more than five hundred engineers, designers, product schedules, and managers were engaged in the production project of the Porsche 918 Spyder.
Frank Steffen Walliser set product launch for September 18, 2013.
The Porsche RS Spyder derived 4593 cc MR6 V8 was reconfigured to deliver 608hp maximum at 8700rpm. Two electric motors were fitted on the front and rear axles and these delivered another 282hp.
The curb weight was measured at 3693 pounds.
Porsche 918 Spyder is sometimes known as the most mind-blowing Porsche creation ever.
With its V8 engine and two electric motors working together to deliver 887hp, and maximum torque of 944 lb-ft, the Porsche 918 Spyder can achieve 0-100km/h in 2.6 seconds. The top speed is officially 345km/h.
Porsche 918 Spyder can travel 30km NDEC and 19km according to US Environmental Protection Agency on electric power only mode, and the average power consumption is three liters per 100 kilometers. The total range is 680km/h or 420mph.
Production Porsche 918 Spyder
The production Porsche 918 Spyder was unveiled at the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show.
It was also the second plug-in-hybrid developed and produced by Porsche, after the 2014 Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid.
It was also the world’s first production vehicle with three independent, individually controlled propulsion sources.
It also featured the rear-axle steering, the first time since Porsche 928.
However, unlike the passive steering of the rear wheels on the Porsche 928, Porsche 918 Spyder featured a fully active rear-wheel steering system.
Porsche 918 Spyder and Porsche 991 series both have rear mid-engine mechanical layout, and due to the lack of weight over the front wheels, these cars have a tendency of under-steering.
To address this issue, both Porsche 991 and Porsche 918 Spyder got slightly longer wheelbase. However, the longer the wheelbase, the less responsive the car’s handling.
To address these issues, a rear-axle steering system was introduced. This system uses two electromechanical actuators bolted onto either side of the chassis situates in front of the top wishbone. Steering arms are connected to the top of the rear uprights.
The two electromechanical actuators are connected to the car’s ECU. ECU unit is measuring the road speed and steering angle in real-time, calculates the required angle and direction in a millisecond, and sends signals that cause electric motors to either push or pull the steering arms to create the required angle and direction of the rear-axle steering.
At speeds under 50km/h (30mph), the rear wheels are steered up to 2.8 degrees in the opposite direction of the front wheels. This results in reducing the wheelbase and thus making it more maneuverable at lower speeds.
At speeds over 80km/h (50mph), the rear wheels turn up to 1.5 degrees in the same direction as the fronts, effectively lengthening the wheelbase, thus making the car more stable when cornering at a higher speed.
This rear-axle steering system enables the rear wheels of the car to load up faster and improves the car’s ability to change directions as well.
In September 2013, the Porsche 918 Spyder ran the Nürburgring in 6 minutes and 57 seconds, becoming the first road-legal production car to beat the seven-minute barrier. This was achieved due to the commitment of Gernot Dollner, and Frank Steffen Walliser, as they always worked on improving the car and its performance. Marc Lieb, the Porsche RS Spyder champion was behind the wheels of the Porsche 918 Spyder.