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Porsche is a veteran of endurance racing, having won overall in the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans no less than 16 times, but developing a new LMP1 from scratch is no easy task, especially with rivals as strong as Audi and Toyota, which have already had a number of successes with recent prototypes.
Maximum efficiency in energy consumption is the directive of the new WEC regulations for the top LMP1 category--and that is also the direction for the automobile future, according to Porsche. Thus, in developing the new 919 Hybrid, Porsche engineers needed to ensure that every component--from the combustion engine to the energy recovery systems, chassis and running gear, aerodynamics and driver ergonomics--not only performs well but is efficient too.
The combustion engine is a compact V-4 unit that also serves as a load-bearing member in the chassis. It displaces just 2.0 liters but thanks to direct-injection and turbocharging technologies manages to produce close to 500 horsepower.
In addition, the 919 Hybrid has two energy recovery systems. Fundamentally new here is a system that recovers thermal energy from exhaust gases via an electric generator driven by the exhaust gas stream, which is similar to what is being used in the 2014 Formula One season.
The second hybrid system has the functionality familiar from the 918 Spyder supercar. Here, a generator on the front axle utilises braking phases to convert kinetic energy into electric energy. Lithium-ion batteries serve as the energy storage medium. When the driver needs this energy, such as coming out of a corner, an electric motor drives the front axle. This makes the 919 Hybrid an all-wheel drive vehicle temporarily.
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Porsche will field two 919 Hybrids in the WEC this season. Driving the number 14 car will be Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb, while sharing time behind the wheel in the number 20 car will be Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley and Mark Webber.
Fellow Volkswagen Group brand Audi, which won this year’s WEC and Le Mans titles, will utilize a TDI diesel engine for the hybrid system in its own 2014 R18 e-tron quattro prototype. Toyota is yet to reveal full details on its 2014 TS040 Hybrid Le Mans prototype but has said it will come with a naturally aspirated V-8.
Joining the 2014 919 Hybrid on Porsche’s stand in Geneva this week was another race car, the 2014-spec 911 RSR. The car is similar to last year’s version and will once again compete in the GTE category of the WEC. Last year the car came first and second in its class in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It features a naturally aspirated 4.0-liter flat-six engine rated at 470 horsepower. Porsche will field two of the cars in the WEC this year.
The first race of the new season is the 6 Hours of Silverstone, which gets underway in the U.K. on April 20, 2014. In the meantime, catch the rest of our 2014 Geneva Motor Show coverage via our dedicated hub.