Porsche reveals 919 LMP1 tech details

The Porsche 919 hybrid World Endurance Championship challenger is powered by a two-liter V4 engine, the German manufacturer has finally confirmed.

Confirmation of the configuration of the gasoline-powered component of the LMP1 racer's powertrain came at the same time as details of its hybrid systems were revealed.

It had previously only been announced that the car, which first ran in June last year, was powered by gas and was turbocharged.

Porsche continues to dole out a trickle of details about its new 919 hybrid prototype. Thanks to a new microsite that launched a few days ago, we now know that the 919 will carry a lithium ion battery pack for electrical energy storage.

The last time a Volkswagen Group brand other than Audi took part in the top echelon of sports car racing, the Bentley Speed 8 that won at Le Mans was little more than a lightly modified closed-top Audi R8 in British Racing Green. This time, the Porsche racing crew at Weissach have cooked up something entirely different from the latest generation R18 e-tron.

A few weeks ago, we learned that Porsche's engineers have opted for a spark-ignition, gasoline-fueled two-liter four-cylinder as the heart of their propulsion system while Audi is sticking with a compression-ignition diesel.

Porsche's decision to use a lithium-ion battery pack rather than the same electromechanical flywheel found in the Audi might seem surprising given that Porsche introduced the technology to sports car racing in 2010. The flywheel system was originally devised by the Williams F1 team in 2009; limited energy storage was allowed, but quick power delivery was needed to maximize performance.

Like the ultracapacitors used by Toyota on its TS030 prototype, the flywheel can absorb and release energy more rapidly than a battery but has lower energy density. The flywheel in the 2010 911 GT3R Hybrid only had a capacity of 200 Wh.

In 2014, LMP1 cars can use from 555 Wh to 2.2 kWh of electrical energy storage. The inherent efficiency of Audi's diesel coupled with slower acceleration response makes it a good fit with a lower capacity but powerful flywheel. On the other hand, Porsche's gas four-cylinder could probably benefit from more electric boost, but it can probably get by with the somewhat slower power delivery of the battery.

If Porsche is going with up to 2.2 kWh of electrical capacity, a battery would likely be a lighter and more compact solution.

As always, engineering is about making tradeoffs on the details to get the best overall solution. It's going to be fascinating to watch who gets the upper hand this year: Porsche, Audi, or Toyota.

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