McLaren’s P1 uses its electric motor to accelerate to 60 mph in a mere 2.6 seconds, and Porsche’s next 918 Spyder does the job in 2.5. Ferrari’s LaFerrari reaches 218 mph. What ever happened to the mantra that electric cars couldn’t perform as well?
Well, a few of us must have blinked, because it seems the Green Revolution we’re always hearing about made it to the supercar world and decided not to tell us. A few years ago, there wasn’t much in the way of electric car technology, with Tesla just getting its start and most supercars being content as gas guzzlers; granted, today’s electric supercars still cost a nice chunk of change at the pump, but less so than in 2007.
The term ‘electric car’ can be somewhat ambiguous to some, especially with all of the different variations. Despite the dogma of a few who define an ‘electric’ as a car with only battery power and no internal combustion engine, we’ll include anything that uses an electric motor system to deploy power, being it alongside or absent of an internal combustion engine; what most would refer to as a “hybrid.” Going off of this definition, a great many of today’s new supercars, absent the extremes like the Hennessy Venom GT, the Bugatti Veyron, and the Koenigsegg One:1, rely on some form of electric technology to augment their traditional power.
The McLaren P1 is what you might refer to as a conventional “hybrid.” The P1 employs a 3.8 liter, twin turbocharged V6 and generates 727 hp from the engine alone, but the electric motors come in to augment it. The engine spins a generator while running, which charges the P1’s lithium ion battery pack, in turn powering a motor in the rear of the car. A complex “electric brain,” which serves a dedicated standalone ECM, monitors the electric/gasoline ratio and balances deployment and recharging accordingly. The P1 can drive in ‘all electric’ mode for around six miles and can cruise at near 100 mph in this mode. The added power of the electric motor, which is situated just between the engine and the transmission, gives theP1 an astounding 903 hp and a 0-60 mph acceleration time of 2.6 seconds.
Perhaps one of the fastest ever electric supercars will be the 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder. For power, the Porsche has a twin turbocharged 4.6 liter V8 engine, producing 608 hp, plus a 129 hp electric motor situated at the rear axle, combined with an additional unit, producing 156 hp, at the front of the car, owing to the car’s all-wheel drive configuration. Regenerative braking(KERS) and excess engine energy from coasting are also channeled into the car’s batteries. The 918 can run in all electric mode for around 18 miles. Fuel economy figures differ, but running in “hybrid mode,” the figures we’ve heard so far range from 65-90 mpg. Both the 918 and the P12 are plugin and can be charged just as the Tesla Model S in a 120 volt outlet. The 918 takes 5.5 hours to reach full charge.
Ferrari’s LaFerrari also uses an electric motor system, coupled with a lithium ion battery pack. Its combined motor and engine can generate a whopping 950 hp, and it achieves a top speed of 281 hp. The electric motor is said to provide “torque-fill’ and help the car accelerate. Unlike the above two, however, it can’t run in all electric mode, though it can still be plugged in to charge.
Then we have the all-electric cars, which house lithium ion battery packs, charged via a 240 or 120 volt outlet for a number of hours, feeding power into an electric motor via a controller. These are true “electric” cars in every sense of the word, and Tesla’s model S is a shining example. BMW’s i8 comes close, relying only on a tiny I3 for gasoline power, but its 23 mile all electric range is dwarfed by the Tesla’s 200-300 mile range.