The McLaren P1: the dawn of the green supercar

Posted on 20 Feb 2013

The world's next supercar, the McLaren P1, will be a hybrid sports car and will combine a 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 petrol engine with a low-weight electric motor to produce instant throttle response.

The battery can be charged via the engine or with a plug-in charger that takes two hours to recharge from empty.

The McLaren P1 will emit less emissions than other supercars while still offering 903 break horse power. McLaren has stated that emissions will be fewer than 200g a kilometre and full electric drive mode (E-mode) will provide at least 10km of emission-free driving.

The McLaren P1™can be driven in a variety of modes, powered by the engine and electric motor together, or solely by the electric motor. This allows it to be used in low emission zones and residential driving is optimised with near-silent running.

Maximum power comes when using both power systems together and the hybrid powertrain will provide instant power. But e-mode alone produces 176 break horse power and is unique to the McLaren P1, producing a maximum torque of 260Nm instantly from a standstill, greatly increasing the throttle response of the McLaren P1.

The electric motor can provide faster shifts in gear, achieved through the application of instant negative torque at the point of shift, making the engine revs drop as quickly and efficiently as possible to the required engine speed for the upshift.

The lightweight electric motor, developed by the McLaren Electronics arm of the group, allows for the McLaren P1 to travel more than 10km with electric-only power that produces zero tailpipe emissions. When the battery is empty, the petrol engine will automatically start to maintain drive and charge the battery.

The McLaren P1 powertrain
The McLaren P1 powertrain

The battery weighs just 96kg and didn’t require any battery packaging as it is mounted onto the underbody of the high-strength Formula 1-grade carbon fibre chassis, which seals the unit in the vehicle.

The engine block has a unique casting to incorporate the electric motor.  The electric motor is mounted directly onto the engine, and all drive is channelled through the seven-speed gearbox to drive the rear wheels.

The high power density has been achieved through a combination of high power cells, low pack weight and an innovative cooling system. Due to the amount of power being supplied by the battery, complex cooling is required to guarantee cell performance and reliability. The coolant flow is balanced so each cell is cooled to the same temperature across the entire pack.

The electric motor has been developed to provide additional drag torque to recover energy that would otherwise be lost to the brakes.

McLaren’s engineers say the car is ready for production and the P1 will make its world debut at the Geneva Motor Show next month.