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Hybrids are no longer boring cars for boring people, there is an incredible new breed of supercars that employ cutting-edge electric motors in order to supplement petrol engines in order to achieve amazing accelerations and top speeds.
To the consumer, supercars represent the ultimate dream machines. Fast, sexy, and very highly priced. To automakers, they are showcases for the very best engineering a company can achieve and the newest technology it has mastered.
The new, Ferrari LaFerrari, McLaren P1, Porsche 918 Spyder and arguably the BMW i8 are the top examples this year. The electric motors in all four of these cars boost power, the Ferrari, McLaren, and Porsche produce 950-hp, 903-hp, and 887-hp, respectively.
While horsepower is important, car enthusiasts know that torque is even more important for acceleration. Engineers have known for a long time that electric motors produce their full torque starting from very low RPM and this allows an electric motor to supplement the torque of a petrol engines revving at low RPM or before the turbo charger kicks in (usually at around 2000 RPM). This is referred to as torque fill.
"In order to get the level of powertrain performance to achieve our targets, one of the ways to go was to go with a hybrid powertrain," said Chris Goodwin, McLaren Automotive's chief test driver. The electric motor in the new $1.1 million P1 enabled McLaren to supplement an engine that makes 641-horsepower by another 262-horsepower from the electric motor.
According to Goodwin, the electric motor compliments the combustion engine: "We call it torque fill because it's allowed us to create whatever torque curve we want. That torque fill has given us instantaneous throttle response."
"Designing the Porsche 918 Spyder to utilize not only a powerful V-8 engine but also an E-Hybrid system allowed us to achieve outstanding performance," said Trent Warnke, Porsche's e-mobility project manager. "Where else can you get 0-60 mph in 2.5 seconds, top track speed of 214 mph, and 67 miles per gallon?"
LaFerrari is the first hybrid from Ferrari, providing the highest power output of any Ferrari whilst decreasing fuel consumption by 40 percent. LaFerrari's mid rear mounted 6.3 litre V12 internal combustion engine producing 789 horsepower @ 9,000 rpm and 516 lb.ft) of torque @ 6,750 rpm, supplemented by a 161 horsepower electric motor, which will provides short bursts of extra power.
In the BMW i8, the electric motor works with a small three-cylinder engine to create a car that can launch from 0 to 60 mph in a scant 4.2 seconds.
Electric motors can also aid handling. That's the case with the BMW i8, and Porsche 918. These cars use electric motors on the front axle, and the torque supplied by those motors can be applied positively or negatively to help the car rotate through a turn.
The motivation to add electric propulsion to the most advanced supercars may vary from brand to brand. Yet, in every instance, electricity improves both power and fuel economy.