Chances are most of us will never have the opportunity to purchase a hypercar but that doesn’t mean that some of the incredible technology found in them won’t filter down to more obtainable platforms.
The latest advances are currently showcased on three of the hottest hypercars available today: the Porsche 918, Ferrari LaFerrari and the McLaren P1, or better known as the Holy Trinity. Utilizing each manufacturer's vast experience and racing heritage, we’ll focus on technologies that are either currently found on or will soon be made available on more "regular" production vehicles.
Next time you get into your car, take a look at the door seam - chances are it's not made of carbon fiber. Previously an “F1 car only” option, each of the Holy Trinity uses some form of carbon fiber monocoque to provide advantages in weight savings, torsional rigidity, safety and a lower center of gravity. Additionally, singular carbon monocoque designs simplify the assembly process, minimizing the overall total pieces required to put the vehicle together, which in turn reduces overall build time. This technology has surprisingly (due particularly to cost) found itself in non-hypercars relatively quickly.
Despite it being costly, this carbon fiber solution was used for BMW’s all-electric i3. The i3 uses a full carbon skeleton to save 550-700lbs - which directly compensates for the additional weight added by the on-board batteries. This compromise allows the i3 to have enough battery to travel up to 100 miles without a charge.
The Alfa Romeo 4C also uses a full carbon monocoque to save weight (the tub itself weighs only 143lbs) - but not for gas mileage. As a lightweight performance oriented sports car, the full carbon monocoque was a much publicized highlight of the 4C.
Call it family values if you will, but the entire McLaren lineup - from the standard 570S, MP4-12C, 650, 570S and the almighty P1 - uses a full carbon monocoque. McLaren outsources this process to the same company that builds tubs for the Porsche 918. As with the other cars, advantages in safety, performance and handling are the bullet points that McLaren uses for carbon tub technology.
A necessity at the speeds traveled by hypercars, Active Aero helps a car's handling, braking and even reduced drag to bring these cars to the cusp of their capabilities. In some cases such as the Porsche 918 and McLaren P1, the onboard computer automatically reacts to changes in speed, turn-in and braking and compensates accordingly by deploying spoilers or adjusting spoiler angle to help aid driver performance.
The Ferrari 458 was at the forefront of this, utilizing flexible aerolastic winglets in its front bumper to direct air beneath the car to provide less drag and more downforce at varying rates of speed. This was not computer generated, rather relying on forced air to provide the proper angle according to speed.
McLaren also uses active aero, primarily with the use of a rear spoiler. Active aero uses the existing Airbrake to 'sense' different driving scenarios, deploying to improve stability when lifting off the throttle or cresting a hill - this is in addition to the usual Airbrake position under heavy braking. The new system also includes a DRS (Drag Reduction System) mode which lowers the wing when driving at speed in a straight line, improving high-speed aerodynamics.
The Porsche 911 Turbo utilizes front and rear spoilers for its version of active aero, which has three settings that can be manually set by the driver depending upon driving conditions. Each setting is tailored for either street performance, max velocity or aggressive handling.
Hybrid Battery Systems/KERS for Performance
No, this isn’t the same technology found on the Prius that you were honking at furiously this morning while on your way to work. Most evident in the three top hyper-cars is the hybrid technology used, an actual marketing point for each one. McLaren's IPAS actually acts as an electric boost system with the touch of a button. The instant battery torque allows for quick surges of power to be used for passing or just plain fun.
The LaFerrari is the only hypercar of the three that doesn't allow you to drive on battery alone. Ferrari's use of the hybrid tech was specifically designated to aid analog engine performance.
The Porsche 918 “Boost” works in a similar fashion, but without the need to push a button. Simply push the accelerator to the floor and Porsche boost manages the electric power to help you reach Vmax.
Unfortunately, this is one of the few technologies we’ve yet to see in the mainstream; however, the Tesla P85D does have an “Insane Mode” which puts the Model S in full battery use/dual motor acceleration mode.
We may not have immediate access to hypercars, but the technology is slowly trickling its way down to other models to help increase efficiency, safety and performance. So the next time you’re drooling over that LaFerrari, just think that your little BMW i3 shares almost the same bit of technology with it.