• Jun 17th 2010 at 11:27AM
  • 44
Long before we developed legs capable of working accelerator and brake pedals, a creature named Tiktaalik decided to wander up out of the ocean. In response to its environment, Tiktaalik's aquatic front flippers evolved to have wrists capable of dragging a heavy body across the ground. Tiktaalik represents a transitional bridge between the old and the new. The rest, as they say, is history. We are in the early days of a fundamental shift in the design paradigm of cars. Responding to a future clouded by issues such as climate change and peak oil, automakers are looking at new ways -- alternative powertrain technologies, lighter materials, new vehicle architectures -- to deliver high performance driving experiences more efficiently. Through it's not the first attempt at racing a gas-electric hybrid system, Porsche's 911 GT3 R Hybrid may already be the most successful, having recently led the majority of the demanding 24 Hours Nürburgring race.

As with Tiktaalik, the innovation in the Porsche hybrid is happening up front. In the GT3 R Hybrid, two electric motors are linked to the front wheels, adding 160 horsepower to the standard GT3 R's 480-horsepower internal combustion engine. Under braking, these motors spin to generate electricity, which is used to accelerate a flywheel spinning in a vacuum (see diagram below). Without the drag of air molecules to slow it down, this flywheel can spin for long periods at 40,000 rpm, allowing it to act as a lightweight "battery", an energy reservoir. When the GT3 R Hybrid driver wants a six-second burst of acceleration, the flywheel spins down to zero, generating electricity which is fed through the motors to the front tires. (For more technical information on the Porsche hybrid system, see this Autoblog feature). With the debut of this efficient and effective technology platform, the hybrid 911 may be the automotive wrist-walker we've been waiting for, the car our children's children will look back upon and say "the revolution started here".



We recently spoke with Jörg Bergmeister, the man behind the wheel of the 911 GT3 R Hybrid at the Nürburgring 24. Bergmeister is a thoughtful and exceptionally talented driver, and responsible for some of the most intense racing moments to come out of the American Le Mans Series in recent years.

TRANSLOGIC: You're a member of the development team for the Porsche 911 GT3 R Hybrid. What's that process like?

Bergmeister: The very first test I did was at the end of December, 2009, but that was just a basic rollout to just see if stuff works. I first drove the car in February, 2010. I think we started with 20 kilowatts on each wheel, so power was at a fairly low level. We went step-by-step up on the power and the engineers kept improving the system. As a driver, it was really interesting to start with a brand new system, with no prior experience. Everything that was done was started from scratch, and it's fun for a driver to have a lot of involvement, because you can see the steps and also the influence you've had as a driver.

TRANSLOGIC: How exactly do you control the hybrid system? How much of it is manual and how much is automatic?

Bergmeister: The recharging of the system is done automatically. We have five different settings on the steering wheel. We can choose how much power the system generates during braking, but the engineers tell us which settings we should run and what we should do there. In general, the system is pretty much automated, especially the recharging. And for the driver, we have the possibility to use a boost whenever we like, when the system is charged.

TRANSLOGIC: How do you engage the boost?

Bergmeister: There's a little hand lever behind the steering wheel, just like a shift paddle pretty much, and we use that. At the beginning, it was a little button on the steering wheel, but the drivers thought that was pretty hard to reach, so we figured something like the shift paddle works best. That's what we use to accelerate.

TRANSLOGIC: How can you tell if the hybrid system is working?

Bergmeister: You can feel it right away when you use the boost! You have an extra 160 horsepower that goes to the front wheels, and that makes quite a big difference, not just in the handling of the car, but also in acceleration!

TRANSLOGIC: What's it like having a flywheel spinning at 40,000 rpm next to you? What does it sound like?

Bergmeister: Talking about the 40,000 rpm, Porsche did a crash test and everything to make sure that the system is safe. But I've never really had any doubts that there are any problems or that it would be dangerous. While driving you don't really feel anything. Sometimes on the braking, when it's about to be completely charged, you can hear it a little bit, but it's nothing really loud or anything. And the regular engine and the gearbox are pretty noisy! So you don't really hear anything from the flywheel. When the flywheel is starting, it sounds like an electric engine. I can make the sound: it's like RRRWWWWWWOOOOOOOOOOOO! Just a kind of a spinning sound, but nothing disturbing or anything.



TRANSLOGIC: The sound of a 911 motor is a fundamental part of the Porsche driving aesthetic. Is this the beginning of a new era?

Bergmeister: No, I don't think the hybrid system really has an influence on the engine sound. The internal combustion motor will rev up a little quicker when you boost, but the actual sound in the car is the same. Just hearing the car drive by, it sounds exactly the same as a normal GT3 R, so there's no change. I think that's a big part of Porsche, the sound of the engine.

TRANSLOGIC: Have you had to change your driving style with this version of the 911?

Bergmeister: A little bit, but it's not really a whole different animal. The more tools you have as a driver -- and if you can use those to the maximum -- the better. It takes a little while to know how exactly the car handles in situations when you use the boost, but that only takes a couple of lessons. It's really a lot of fun! For the weight distribution, the car is about 125 kilos (275 pounds) heavier than the normal GT3 R, and most of that weight was put to the front, so the weight distribution is obviously pretty good. When you use the boost, you just have to think of how a four-wheel-drive car reacts when you drive it. So usually, especially in the rain, it's very noticeable. When you have oversteer and feel the traction control, you can use the boost and it really stabilizes the car and pulls the car straight. It's pretty impressive.

TRANSLOGIC: So if you feel the rear of the car coming around, you can send boost to the front wheels and it pulls you through?

Bergmeister: Yes. That's the idea, to a certain extent. I mean, you can still spin out, but it's definitely a tool that you can also use just for the handling of the car. That being said, Porsche also put a lot of work into the details. When we pull the shift paddle, it doesn't just automatically put full power to the front wheels. The power output is also influenced by how much input there is in the steering wheel, and what the throttle position is like. So it's very easy to modulate, which makes it a lot of fun!

TRANSLOGIC: What's the overall boost in efficiency?

Bergmeister: The only other car at the Nürburgring that had a 120-liter (31.7 gallons) tank like us was an Audi R8, and we could do two laps more than they did. That's quite a bit.

TRANSLOGIC: And what's the performance benefit?

Bergmeister: The goal was never really to have a performance benefit. The goal was always to have an efficiency benefit, and to do more laps than anybody else by having about the same performance as a non-hybrid GT3 R. I think we might have been just a little bit slower than the quickest car in the Nürburgring race, but compared to them we were able to run ten laps per tank of fuel and they only did eight.

TRANSLOGIC: So when you think about this hybrid 911, are there any races where the system would not be helpful?

Bergmeister: Maybe in a sprint race it wouldn't be such a big advantage, but even there, passing other cars, it's a really great tool. You use the boost to get by another competitor. Definitely, the longer the race is, the more the efficiency helps you and I think that is the key.

TRANSLOGIC: Porsche has a history of racing four-wheel drive 911's. Could you imagine this system doing the Dakar, like the 959 did, or climbing Pikes Peak?

Bergmeister: I'd say definitely the system is just at the beginning. There's a lot of potential for more development. With the two electric engines in the front, you can play around, use all the stored energy as a front differential, and tools like that. So there's so much more to work on and to develop. There's more to come, I hope!

TRANSLOGIC: Can you imagine ever racing an all-electric car?

Bergmeister: Well, I like the sound of an internal combustion engine! Probably there will be a time that that will happen, but if that's really the solution, I'm not sure. Looking at the past, seeing how the internal combustion engines develop through time and how much more efficient they get, I think there's more to come in that area. Internal combustion engines will be around for quite a while longer, I hope. To me, a racecar needs to have a good sound as well!

TRANSLOGIC: Given global warming and issues of environmental degradation around the planet, where do you think racing needs to go over the next two decades?

Bergmeister: That's a tough one. Looking at what the American Le Mans Series is doing already, they are the leader in green racing worldwide, and have the Michelin GREEN X Challenge. It's a good championship. Manufacturers are really looking closely at it, and trying to make engines even more efficient, because fuel mileage also plays a big part in our races in the ALMS. It's a virtuous circle: The better the efficiency you have in the race car, the better for the environment, the better the performance. If you can use less fuel and still get the same performance, you have to carry less weight in the car, so therefore you have to do less pit stops. So I think you're going to see more performance through efficiency in the next years.

TRANSLOGIC: That's a great summary of philosophy behind the GT3 R Hybrid.

Bergmeister: Efficiency is everything. Racing is about efficiency, not just performance. It's a combination of performance and having the right efficiency, especially in sports car racing, in the long-distance races, that's the key.

TRANSLOGIC: How might this hybrid powertrain system translate to future street Porsches like the 918 Spyder? How do you think it will change the Porsche driving experience?

Bergmeister: It would still be a Porsche, for sure. When talking about a hybrid, you kind of think of a car like a Prius or something like that, but when I first got in the 911 Hybrid, I only thought, "Whoa, that's so much fun!" and that it was still a Porsche. So I don't think there will be any changes on the fun part of driving a Porsche.

TRANSLOGIC: What is your daily driver, given that you're a family man?

Bergmeister: A 911 Carrera S. My wife loves the car as well, but sometimes she probably would rather have a Cayenne or something similar! But I wouldn't have as much fun as with a 911, so...

TRANSLOGIC: And if you could have a dream garage, what would be in your stable?

Bergmeister: Oh, there's so many nice cars! Let's start with the Porsche Carrera GT. That's one of them for sure. I drove a 914-6 racecar recently and that was a lot of fun, so that would be nice. One of my dad's first racecars was an NSU TT in Jägermeister colors. Audi just rebuilt it for their museum -- it's a pretty famous car, and there's a lot of models of it. That would be a cool car to have, as well.

TRANSLOGIC: Cars and their history obviously mean a lot to you. What's a favorite car related memory from your childhood?

Bergmeister: Probably when my brother and I got our first go-kart for Christmas when my brother was three and I was two, or just about to turn three. My grandfather gave me an ignition cable and he pulled the manual starter off the engine, and I got an electric shock! That was my first involvement with racing. And then my brother and I both started go-karting -- it still sticks in my memory!

TRANSLOGIC: With your busy racing schedule, how do you stay inspired?

Bergmeister: Racing is the one thing I love -- well, not the only thing, but I've done it my entire life and it has been my hobby and I made it my profession. I'm very fortunate to make my hobby my profession. I think that's enough inspiration. I just love, love racing.

TRANSLOGIC: The 24 hours of Le Mans, 24 hours of Daytona, multiple championships across many racing series... you've won at many of the venues that made Porsche the aspirational brand it is today. What does Porsche represent for you?

Bergmeister: Porsche, for me it was a dream when I became a factory driver, a dream come true. I'm from Germany, and Porsche has such a long history in racing and they've been so successful in everything they did in racing. So being involved with them and being able to work with them is just amazing and it's a lot of fun. I hope there's more years to come and hopefully more success to come.


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 44 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      Now, I know you all are talking about "Factory" cars, but the mods they have are High Dollar to say the least. Let me tell you....I have a little old Fiero..Yes you know, the little commuter car..with a few "Low" dollar mods. My little street car pulls 1.3Gs in a standard corner test....a little under four seconds to 60 and a little over over ten seconds to one hundred, I have no idea what the top end is because there aren't any quality road tracks in my area, and anything over 120 on the local one is unsafe to say the least. Now to end it all, it is my daily driver and I get over thirty mpg. Suspension mods are modest and weight distribution is only changed by putting the batteries up front. All for under twelve grand.
      • 5 Years Ago


      Matt, I didn't say it was stock. But I know the guy who buit it, he has a shop here in Amityville. As for your car I also know someone in my parking garage who has a new one. You don't have a stock one, certainly not one legal in the USA. Most of the italian cars numbers are all not legal here. I'm assuming you're living in the USA, either you modified it or you sent it to Canada or Mexico and drove it over the border. Been there, done that. I knew people who brought R1's here. That's a 500cc two cycle bike like they use in the Grand Prix. In fact one of my friends quailified with it 40th in the world. Once we had a guy driving on the Ocean Pkwy by Jones Beach at night with a dragster. Mine is still street legal, though it's an 86 so soon I can do what I want. In three hours I can make it top 200. In fact I could do that and still be street legal and reliable too. How much torque you got? How high do you have to rev it to even move? Mine works fine at all speeds, and everyone has tranny problems even formula one. The viper which we got like five in my area here has so much torque there's no tranny that can effectively handle it, except for diesel truck trannys. My friend's 911 had like 230 hp, you really think it does 175? I've done 175 before, not on the LIE but the Clearview. And my friend did 176 on the Northern State with a bike all the way from Queens to the Oak Beach Inn on Ocean Pkwy. He has the record for wheelies on a quad with four people two miles on an old runway. He said if he had the room he could do it for 30 miles or more. He used to wheelie a 50 cc yamaha razz scooter (my mom's) I saw him do it for a block. He had a 1993 ZX1100 which I own now, did six gear wheelie (shifts gears in it). But anyway I also recall looking at this that "flywheel" was in a formula one built by dodge several years ago. Guess Porsche can only copy the USA, check on the internet. It was in popular mechanics years ago, when the Viper was finishing mostly in the top twenty and Porsche only like six out of twelve even made it to the finish line at all. The vipers all finished.



      MARC
      gwestendor
      • 5 Years Ago
      If oil runs out completely in 2050 then the world will come to a scretching halt in 2051. The world's entire food supply is produced with oil. Ask any farmer what his machinery runs on ask any big trucker how the products get to market. Sports cars are great fun but not necessary to the world function. Nearly edverythng is produced processed and transposted with oil. The typical battery powered electric car (not the above mentioned Porsche) is 50% coal powered being that 50% of the nation's electric power is produced by coal. Ask your wife if she'll go without makeup in 2051? Nay-sayers always mention "known reserves" 3/4 of the world is covered with water common logic tell us that 3/4 of the world's resourses are below that water. Just last week it was also reported that of all places Afganistan is ripe with many abundant mineral deposits. Point being, new resources are being discovered every year. Oil in all it's forms is a gift of nature to mankind. It's to oil that we owe our extremely high standard of living around the world not just the USA. For the record I do not work in the oil or any energy industry I'm just a consumer like most other people.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Chris, your comment is incorrect. While there is a lot of oil in the Bakken formation, only about 1% is technically recoverable. This equates to about 3.6 billion barrels. The numbers sound great until you read the details, much of it will be too energy intensive and expensive to make it worthwhile to recover, and what's recoverable isn't nearly all that much to begin with.

      In terms of how much this really can supply us with, the US uses about 21 million bbpd, which works out to be about 7.6 billion barrels per year. If we were to get all of this oil tomorrow it would power the US for just about 6 months. Not 60 years. However, even that is a stretch as it will take closer to 20 years to extract the oil.

      Here's a great article on the subject:

      http://www.theoildrum.com/node/3868
      John
      • 5 Years Ago
      This Porsche design is all about PERFORMANCE and not efficiency or economy. This technology is a dead end for passenger cars. You have to 'charge' the flywheel with some kind of energy the first time and it gradually coasts down if you don't need it. Then there are the gyroscopic forces imparted by that spinning mass (could be bizarre). And you need a vacuum pump to keep flywheel aerodynamic losses at a minimum. Then there are big losses each time you convert mechanical to electric energy and back. As I said, this is about performance.
      Smoothoperator
      • 5 Years Ago
      I guess someone forgot to tell you global warming is a hoax and looking at the gulf we have millions of years of cheap fossil fuels. By the way- my Corvette would have this eurotrash for breakfast at far less the cost!
        Matt
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Smoothoperator
        Love ya bro... but you're out of your mind that your Corvette would have the "Eurotrash" Porsche for breakfast, especially a Porsche GT3, even if you've got a Z06, unless you are talking about drag racing. This article was not about drag racing. Far less cost is absolutely correct. As for racing, factory GT3's regularly chew up factory prepared Vettes and spit them out. Factory Vs Factory - no contest in endurance racing. I have a non-turbo 911 all stock, not a Turbo GT3 911, and I always absolutely crush Vettes out on the highway. My brother has a Vette. Take on a real GT3 (maybe you've never seen one on the road?) and see what happens. The only thing you'll see is a GT3 pulling away. Check out the 24 hours of Daytona, 12 hours @ Sebring or 24 hours of Lemans, and look at the results. Audi(diesel), Bentley diesels (yes - BENTLEY), Ferrari, Porsche, then - everyone else. In road racing events all those cars always badly chew up the Vettes. Drag racing? Well... that's another world that's only a quarter mile long and not what this story was about. I am from Detroit, and love performance cars from there, includng Vettes, but this is reality! :)
        Karen
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Smoothoperator
        Amazing Http://www.porscheguide.info what's not to like about this car.
        JD
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Smoothoperator
        Keth you are correct ans smooth you are wrong about the known oil reserves. As a retired geoligist for the oil industry I can tell you the current facts. All known oil reserves will be totally expended by 2050 cruid oil based products will be in short supply by 2035. Expect to be paying $10/gal for gas by 2030. Good luck!
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Smoothoperator
        corvette vs. porcupine The corvette has the pricks on the inside.
        Glen
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Smoothoperator
        Smooooth...please. This porsche would eat your lunch. Electric vehicles have acces to the full hp of the car from the get go without lagtime your combustion engine will experience. At all points thru the race its accleration will leave you crying. Get real man. The vette is cool but don't be an ugly-american calling it eurotrash. Try traveling beyond the county lines and experience the rest of the world.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Smoothoperator
        Of course someone who owns a redneck Ferrari would think global warming was a hoax..
        steedjdavid
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Smoothoperator
        I have a new Corvette Z-6, and no it will not beat the Porsche on race tracks, the Porsche has tremendously superior handling to our Corvettes. Yes our Corvettes are fast especially in a straight line, but the handling on track just isn't there. I don't know where you came up with the million years of cheap fossil fuels, because it isn't cheap now and it certainly isn't going to get cheaper or more plentiful. You are making Corvette owner sound stupid, and I love my Corvette for what it is, but it doesn't make me want to look or act stupid.
        Gary
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Smoothoperator
        Too bad you aren't competent enough, based on your response, to drive anything. Global warming a hoax, sure, keep your head buried in the sand. The ocean will flow right over it.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Smoothoperator
        A Corvette??? lol...I'm guessing your old and your....ah...male part doesn't work anymore....
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Smoothoperator
        "no global warming" DING! I've been looking for the guy who can tell me which end of the pool is the peeing end?

        Wait ! ...are you that guy?
        smilingcarmen
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Smoothoperator
        you are talking like a republican...keep upthe blind site to the reality of what is happening and when the day comes that you want to bread and can't maybe then you will believe
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Smoothoperator
        This is the single most stupid thing I have ever read on my computer. You are wrong on all counts.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Smoothoperator
        Smuthe operator...you may be 16 different kinds of complete idiot. Still herding a Vette around, are you? You must love antiques. As for the ongoing availability of crude oil, oil company geologists have predicted that sometime around the year 2035 we will be very near the end of the World's supply. Or are you one of those religious nuts that think "God will provide?"
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Smoothoperator
        ...are you people older than 12...??the whole conversation is dumb..."my car can beat your car"...uhhh thats pretty jr. high school..new topic please
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Smoothoperator
        wow a redneck just had a brain fart. how about you go pretend you're a big boy and go do your sister. you shouldn't be a challenge even after what I did to her.
        Greenie
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Smoothoperator
        Your right, I have a C5 Vette Supercharged 6 spd. Porcha for dinner.
      All Winners LOVE Winners
      What's It Like To Drive The WORLDS' Most EXOTIC HYBRID Sports Car? - I'll Let You KNOW(-:
      • 5 Years Ago


      Also we are not running out of oil. Just cheap $20 a barrel oil. Even if we did we can convert coal into oil. Any gas engine can run on propane or CNG. RIght now, it takes only a few hours to convert one. I know, I did one. And they have old wells that they are using new technology to extract oil out of them. The main thing is that they need to drill anywhere they can, that's what will keep the prices down. When they have to spend a billion dollars drilling in the gulf when they could do it onshore for a tenth of that expect to pay more for fuel. A lot of times they drill and get nothing, so the billion goes in the toilet. You and I all pay for that, so keep on making it harder and fork over more at the pump. And everywhere else, too because oil is involved in everything from food to electronics. It all gets delivered by a truck running on diesel. The single most important thing to the world economy is cheap oil, period.



      MARC
        • 5 Years Ago
        TECHNICALLY we have been running out of oil since the first drop came out of the ground. I am confident that we are using it faster than it is being FORMED. I think what you mean is that it is being FOUND faster than we are using it. It may be true that we will find enough to last hundreds of year. but it will eventually be gone if we keep using at present rate.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Seriously?!? There are "peak oil" idiots left in the world outside the print media??? Are you morons aware that there's enough oil just in the relatively untapped Bakken formations in the Dakotas in the US to provide 100% of America's oil demands for nearly 60 years? That's not even mentioning the vast reserves on the north bank of Alaska, the hundreds of billions of barrels of shale oil just in the US, the formations that are being discovered in Montana, all the areas that would still produce if the government would ignore the hysterical ravings of communist environmentalists, etc. Just like global warming, "peak oil" is a load of communist propaganda and the only people who actually believe it are the government bureaucrats seeking to run all aspects of your lives, or the fools too stupid to do some basic research and find out that what they're saying is total nonsense. No, you people are too busy getting your information from Matt Damon as he reads his commie movie script on "Syriana". There's more untapped oil reserves on this planet than you or I or are children or their children's children could ever use. Unbelievable stupidity. Get a clue you freaking morons.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Every here of Carol Shelby. He has an engine OX2 that will beat the snot out this new technology, big oil, big industry being automotive, is holding back the OX2. 300 pounds, no transmission, very few moving parts. Look up the OX2 engine on the web. It is no wonder it's being held back. It would be like the blacksmith being replaced by a mechanic. Big shift, fewer wires, parts, no transmission, less weight, all the industry links between affected. Bring it on OX2.
        John
        • 5 Years Ago
        I just looked into your/Shelby's OX2. According to a seemingly authoritative forum, it APPEARS they must have run into some big problems in the development or funding since it's now been years of silence and the marketing website was taken down. Another interesting design killed by overenthusiasm and lack of attention to detail (my hypothesis).
      lewazzinaroillus
      • 5 Years Ago
      as a porsche 911 owner,...i can vouch for the magnificence of the marque,...porsche has been racing since the early 50's,...and i've heard that the 911 is the winningest sportscar in motorsport history,...glad to see that legacy live on with porsche's current innovations,...long may they reign as one of a handfull of special marques,...[ie. ferrari,...corvettes,...aston martins,...lambo's,...in other words,...cars we drool over!]
      wongtpa
      • 5 Years Ago
      Wow! What a car. Great!
    • Load More Comments