Special Coverage

Geneva
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GENEVA – Porsche AG would need two to three years to equip Boxster roadsters with advanced hybrid-electric technology displayed this week at the auto show here, the company’s chairman, president and CEO tells Ward’s.

Michael Macht says hybrids are an important part of the brand’s future product strategy because of impending emissions requirements and the need to protect natural resources.

“And on the other side, there are people who want to have emotional cars. So far, that does not fit. This is our answer,” he says after the auto maker’s press conference here. “This is what our customers expect from Porsche.”

The 2-seat 918 Spyder concept is one of three Porsche hybrids displayed here. With plug-in technology, the roadster is intended to deliver super-car performance and remarkable fuel efficiency of 94 mpg (3 L/100 km) based on the new European driving cycle. That equates to carbon-dioxide emissions of 70 g/km.

Powering the concept is a mid-ship 3.4L V-8 (adapted from the RS Spyder racing car) producing more than 500 hp, as well as electric motors on the front and rear axle, with overall mechanical output of 218 hp.

Porsche’s 7-speed dual-clutch PDK transmission sends power to the rear wheels, while also feeding electric power to the rear axle,. Electric power also is transmitted directly to the front wheels.

Macht says Porsche likely will make a decision about production plans in the coming months, and the U.S. is an ideal market for a car using the drivetrain of the 918 Spyder concept.

Although only a concept at this point, he says the 918’s technology will appear “in other future products of ours as well.” The technology is easily adaptable for Porsche sports cars such as the Boxster roadster or 911 coupe, a process that would require development time of less than three years.

The 918 concept’s technology is more advanced and sophisticated than the more conventional Cayenne S Hybrid, which is rated at 34 mpg (8.2 L/100 km) and slated to go on sale in the U.S. later this year as an ’11 model, employing nickel-metal-hydride batteries.

Battery power for the 918 concept comes from a lighter-weight, fluid-cooled lithium-ion pack positioned behind the passenger compartment. Regenerative brakes feed additional power to the batteries.

Macht says a full-hybrid system similar to that in the Cayenne is not well-suited for smaller cars. “It’s the perfect system for the Cayenne. But on the sports-car side, we want more acceleration and more driving ability. The car is a bit lighter, and we don’t want to have heavy batteries inside.”

In addition to the 918 Spyder, Porsche also shows the 911 GT3 R hybrid, the auto maker’s first hybrid racing car with electrical front-axle drive and a flywheel energy reservoir. Two electric motors supplement a 480-hp 6-cyl. engine positioned at the rear.

By way of production cadence, Macht says he realizes the 918 Spyder represents a stretch target.

“The Cayenne is a full conventional hybrid – it is for today. The GT3 R hybrid is for tomorrow,” he says. “This car (918 Spyder) will be the day after tomorrow.”

Performance specs for the concept are impressive: acceleration from a standstill to 60 mph (97 km/h) in less than 3.2 seconds; top speed of 198 mph (320 km/h); and a lap time on Germany’s legendary Nordschleife of Nürburgring race track of less than 7:30, faster than a Porsche Carrera GT.

The 918 concept also has an E-Drive mode allowing it to travel up to 16 miles (25 km) on pure electricity.

Macht says he expects the hybrid version to make up about 15% of the Cayenne sales mix worldwide. Within 10 years, a 30% hybrid mix worldwide for the Porsche brand is within reach.

tmurphy@wardsauto.com