She stood motionless on the pavement near Washington’s National Mall, beams of late summer sun caressing her sleek body as dozens of men ogled her and made secret wishes.
‘She’, German luxury car-maker Porsche’s new 911 GT3 R Hybrid, is the world’s first hybrid GT racing car, and it was in the United States to compete in the American Le Mans Series, a proven ground for green technology race cars.
At a Washington event, it showed off sleek lines and the ground-breaking new hybrid technology, developed for racing. “This car shows that being environmentally efficient doesn’t have to be boring. It can be fast, it can be sexy, it can be competitive,” said Patrick Long, a 29-year-old Porsche factory driver, adding that “Hybrids don’t have to make no noise and drive slowly down the road. They can be loud, exciting race cars.”
The car has the body of a 2010 Porsche 911 GT3 R with a four-litre, flat-six, 480 horsepower combustion engine in the rear. Up front, its unique hybrid system harnesses two electric motors and a flywheel to generate, store and release power. The Porsche is the first car to use an electromechanical flywheel as the battery, said Christoph Michalik, Porsche’s director of Motorsports Strategy and Planning.
When a driver brakes on one of the many curves on a race course, the electric motors, which are coupled to the wheels, generate an electric current that powers up the flywheel, located in the front passenger seat. Energy is released from the flywheel during normal acceleration and automatically delivered to the front wheels to support the combustion engine and reduce fuel consumption.
Energy can also be requested by the driver — to overtake a rival racer, for example — by pushing a paddle on the steering wheel to request a “boost”. In “boost” mode, the car switches from rear-wheel to all-wheel drive, which increases traction and reduces tire wear, and both the front and rear engines are used at 100 percent, the combustion engine delivering 480 horsepower and the front electric motors adding another 160-180 horsepower. “When you pull the paddle and get the charge, it launches you back in the seat and you’d better be ready and have your lines set up so you stay on the race track. That’s roughly 30 percent more horse-power,” said Long.
The new Porsche GT hybrid racing car will make its US racing debut on October 2 at the 1,000-mile, 10-hour-maximum final of the American Le Mans Series. In Atlanta, the Porsche will race against cars including a Corvette powered by cellulosic E85 ethanol, a Mazda that runs on isobutanol; and an Audi that runs on clean diesel.