The Porsche 918 Spyder plug-in hybrid was a surprise concept at the Geneva auto show earlier this year. The Porsche 918 Spyder plug-in hybrid was a surprise concept at the Geneva auto show earlier this year.
Citing an “overwhelming response from the public and customers,” Porsche said on Wednesday that it intended to move its ultrapowerful and gorgeously styled 918 Spyder plug-in hybrid from concept to production model. The decision complements a second, more modest environmentally themed test program announced on Monday that would put three battery-operated versions of the popular Boxster into what the company calls “field tests.”
Gary Fong, a Porsche spokesman, cautioned that the 918 decision doesn’t guarantee that the car will actually be built, just that a production-intent program will go forward. In any case, it will be a true exotic. According to Bloomberg News, citing “people familiar with the matter,” the 918 could be priced at an incredible $640,000. But Mr. Fong called that number “pure speculation.”
The 918 Spyder was shown at the 2010 Geneva auto show and at Auto China in Beijing. Porsche said that its combined a 500-horsepower V-8 and twin electric motors producing 160 kilowatts, for a combined 718 horsepower. All of the numbers for the Spyder are big, including a top speed of 198 miles per hour and a zero-to-60 time of 3.2 seconds. It will also reportedly achieve 78 miles per gallon, though obviously not with that huge V-8 at full throttle.
Mr. Fong declined to estimate how many 918 Spyders might be made, or when they might appear. “The last time we built a car like this was the Carrera GT, and there were just over 1,000 of those,” he said. The 918 Spyder is actually faster around the Nürburgring Nordschleife than the Carrera GT, according to Porsche.
The three electric Boxsters are test cars, but Porsche’s president and chief executive, Michael Macht, said in announcing the program, “We will definitely be offering an electric sports car in future. But such a concept only makes sense if it offers product qualities typical of a Porsche.” The company isn’t speculating, but a high-powered electric Boxster could emerge as a potent rival to the Tesla Roadster.
Porsche is likely to make performance a key value for its electrified vehicles. Craig Giffi, the United States automotive practice leader at Deloitte, said that “Porsche has always been a leader in automotive performance and technology, and this move is consistent with their image and their brand.” James Bell, an executive market analyst at Kelley Blue Book, pointed out that automakers like Porsche are also adding electric cars and hybrids to their fleets to meet increasingly stringent fuel economy and emissions laws in the United States and Europe.
Also scheduled for production this fall is a 380-horsepower version of the Cayenne S with a parallel hybrid system based around a supercharged V-6 engine. A similar drivetrain will also be used to create a hybrid version of the Panamera sedan next year, Mr. Fong said. A different hybrid system is being used for the 911 GT3 R Hybrid racecar that recently took part in the 24 Hours of Nürburgring.
Porsche points out that it has been “committed to electric mobility for a long time.” Though the company has never made a production battery car, it does have hybrid bragging rights with the so-called Lohner-Porsche of 1900. A version of that car had Ferdinand Porsche’s own electric hub motors on all four wheels, plus no less than two gasoline engines generating electricity.