For many years there seemed to be an unwritten rule when it came to car building cars: If you wanted high performance and fuel efficiency, well, you always had to choose just one. Even early hybrid performance cars didn't seem to do much in the friends-of-the-environment department. Typically their electric motors were used simply to hike up rated horsepower rather than get more miles to the gallon.
The Porsche 918 Spyder concept -- approved for production -- wraps the old "power versus fuel economy" argument in a tidy cocoon and dispatches it with the methodical efficiency of a ravenous arachnid. Debuting at the 2010 auto shows in Geneva and Beijing, the 918 Spyder put a green twist on the well-liked but out-of-production Porsche Carrera GT. Public reaction to the 918 was swift and positive, prompting Porsche bigwigs to fire up the assembly lines [source: Porsche].
Not one, but two electric motors augment the 500-horsepower gasoline engine, and the electrics add a combined 218 effective horsepower. If there was ever any doubt that the trend toward alternative fuel vehicles was here to stay, surely outfitting of supercars such as the 918 Spyder with efficient powerplants lays those doubts to rest.
The hybrid electric motors aren't just for delivering raw power, either. The car is capable of returning efficiency ratings in the neighborhood of 80 miles per gallon (34 kilometers per liter).
But before we get too carried away in praising this Porsche, we need to make clear that with supercar performance and technology comes a supercar price tag. This replacement for the much salivated-over Carrera GT is expected to set a buyer back by about $850,000. Just goes to show that what automotive engineers say is true -- while the Porsche does amazing things to get its 918 Spyder so efficient, "there's no such thing as a free lunch."
While that may be the case, there is such a thing as two, or even three for the price of one. To find out which concept will inspire at least three different production car brands, go to the next page.