24 Hours of Le Mans

Published on March 9th, 2014 | by Jo Borrás

Secrets of the Porsche 919 Hybrid Racer Explained (15 Photos)

March 9th, 2014 by  

Porsche isn’t messing around with its new Porsche 919 Hybrid race car. For starters, they’ve built a slippery, aerodynamic racer and hired Formula 1 ace (and damn near 2010 World Driver’s Champion) Mark Webber to drive the thing at this year’s 24 hour LeMans race. Next, they’ve designed the car that is able to harness more of the potential energy in gasoline than anything else. How did they do it? Read on.

I’ve never met the Truth About Cars’ Ronnie Screiber, but all evidence suggest that he is a clever cat. As he points out in his own, highly-detailed Porsche article, gasoline contains about 116,000 btu/gal. That means we have a significant number of BTUs that we can turn into energy, even in an internal combustion engine with theoretical maximum efficiency of 37%. That means that, even under ideal conditions, nearly 2/3 of all the energy in a gallon of gasoline is either wasted or lost as heat.

To begin getting some those lost BTUs back, Porsche went down the same path Renault did with its new Formula 1 engine: turbocharging.

Turbos are “spooled” by the pressure of the engine’s exhaust– a product of combustion. The exhaust gasses drive a turbine that compresses and forces more oxygen into an engine’s combustion chamber, generating greater thermal efficiency per unit of fuel than a normally aspirated (non-turbocharged) engine. In the 919 Hybrid, the turbocharged 2.0 liter 4 cylinder engine is fitted with an additional and “fundamentally new” exhaust-driven device that sends power to the hybrid’s batteries.

That exhaust driven turbo/hybrid charging system looks like this …

919 Turbo Hybrid System

… and sort of sits in Porsche’s 919 Hybrid thusly …


… keeping the entire power-generating package light, compact, and neatly integrated underneath the car’s tightly-pulled skin (shown, below).

Porsche 919 LeMans Hybrid Race Car

Now, I know that many of you looking at that cutaway are thinking that Porsche’s 919 Hybrid powertrain looks pretty small for contesting LeMans. Consider, though, that they’ll be turning as many as twice the number of available BTUs into heat energy as most of the field, so think of that 2.0 liter turbocharged V4 as more of a 4.0 liter twin-turbocharged V8 and you’ll start to get the idea. Factor in the reduced wear and tear the lighter engine will put through the tires, the extra life they’ll get out of their brake pads thanks to the regenerative braking strategies being employed, and the improved fuel economy available to Porsche’s hybrid and you might start to understand why Mark is one of the odds-on favorites to win this year’s event.

It’s all pretty clever stuff, for sure- but will the new turbo/hybrid system give the new 919 enough juice to win against the dominant Audi and Toyota teams at this year’s 24? We’ll find out in June. Until then, take a look at the 919 development/livery photos below, then let us know what you think of the team’s odds in the comments section at the bottom of the page. Enjoy!


Porsche 919 LeMans Hybrid Race Car

Porsche 919 LeMans Hybrid Race Car

Porsche 919 LeMans Hybrid Race Car

Porsche 919 LeMans Hybrid Race Car

Porsche 919 LeMans Hybrid Race Car

Porsche 919 LeMans Hybrid Race Car

Porsche 919 LeMans Hybrid Race Car

Porsche 919 LeMans Hybrid Race Car

Porsche 919 LeMans Hybrid Race Car

Porsche 919 LeMans Hybrid Race Car

Porsche 919 LeMans Hybrid Race Car


Sources | Photos: Porsche.

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About the Author

I've been in the auto industry 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the IM network. You can also find me on Twitter, at my Volvo fansite, or chasing my kids around Oak Park, IL.

  • J_JamesM

    It’s the freaking Batmobile!

  • topkill

    I am so happy to see Porsche back in Le Mans and truly hope to see Ferrari join the fray as well. I can’t wait to see how the different technologies play out and what this year brings. I’m rooting for the teams going with the 8MJ per lap and for Porsche to go with a 4cyl shows pure, unrelenting, all-out BALLS!
    I miss the Lions of Peugeot, but with Toyota and Porsche jumping in, it’s actually better than ever. Come on Ferrari…step up to the plate! It would actually be in their best interest as they could share development cost and 90% of the same components with their F1 efforts and a chance to “cheat” and learn something from their Le Mans efforts.
    I think it could be quite an advantage and possibly the wave of the future. ,

  • Bi-Polar Bear

    In essence, Porsche is using much of the technology involved in the new for 2014 Formula One technical regulations. What the F1 teams are experiencing is massive problems getting all the components of the drive system to work together. The actual mechanical components are known quantities, but the software that controls them is all new is giving the teams fits. A report from an insider working on these issues surfaced yesterday suggesting that NONE of the cars may finish the season opener in Melbourne this coming Sunday due to the fallibility of these systems!

    No doubt Porsche has experienced many of the same issues and has been able to conquer them, due to the unlimited testing allowed in LeMans racing. If Ferrari or other manufacturers decided to enter the LeMans fray, it would be less about winning and more about working around the testing ban that Formula One foolishly continues to cling to.

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