Instantly, this engine starts, increasing the power and torque of the native engine by about 50% and giving me an idea of Popeye's feeling after swallowing spinach. Instead of hitting a group of non-goodniks from the frame, however, I tear through the hills of northern California. "Oooooohhhhhhhhh," I say, before braking and engaging in a bend.
It oooooohhhhhhhhh This is what Davis and his Vonnen colleagues have spent over the last three years developing. The Shadow Drive system transforms a wide range of Porsche 911s into high-performance hybrid vehicles for $ 75,000. It uses an engine and a small battery to add 150 horsepower and a couple of feet to an already impressive powertrain. At a time when electric cars are finally be recognized for their performanceit's a way to offer these benefits to people who cling to their old machines. Over the next few years, Vonnen will strive to make its system compatible with older generations of the 911, and hope to use it for other makes and types of vehicles. They could even target pickup truck drivers. "It's all about couples," says Chuck Moreland, Vonnen's boss.
Vonnen is a new branch of Elephant Racing, a store opened by Moreland about 20 years ago, after fleeing the technology industry during the Internet bubble crisis. (He was working on what we now call cloud computing.) Based in Santa Clara, the store modifies and maintains Porsche cars. Many of their customers are weekend runners who want stronger suspensions to take the lead. The concept of hybridization of cars came one day at lunch. Ferrari and McLaren had combined electric power and engine power to make powerful new supercars. Like Porsche itself, with the 918 Spyder. So why not find a way to adapt the trend to older sports cars? "It was one of those crazy ideas that would not go away," Moreland said.
The 911 was a good candidate for the experimental operation. First of all, Moreland and his team know the car well. Porsche owners tend to be overly price sensitive. While many are purists (generally derogating from any changes made by Porsche to the car that followed theirs), the enduring success of fashion stores like Singer, Guntherwerksand Magnus Walkerson shows that there is a lot of appetite for the changes. In addition, the arrangement of the rear engines and rear drive wheels would be well suited to the configuration they thought at the beginning of the project.
This first attempt consisted of placing a standard engine in the engine, in front of the cockpit. "It was a bit crude," says Moreland. We felt hooked (or rather stuck in). This would not translate well to other types of cars. More importantly, it only delivered power in the higher gears, which meant that the car was already traveling at high speed. Moreland wanted to do better with a solution as elegant as the 911 itself.
The team, consisting of three full-time employees, and the entrepreneur who promoted, found another solution. Their custom-designed engine takes the place of the car's native flywheel, between the engine and the transaxle. (The engine also acts as a flywheel, so that the car keeps the rotational inertia that softens the vibrations of the combustion engine.) The engine is about the size of a small pizza and fits perfectly into the casing of the bell. transmission that covers the steering wheel and the clutch.
For the 911 we had in the hills, the Vonnen team had to advance the transmission by about an inch, which required new supports located near the front of the car to support it properly. This is a relatively minor change. According to Moreland, the main idea was to design a system to transform hybrid cars into cars whose designers only thought of gasoline. And this solution places the engine in a place where it adds power to all gears, including the lowest, where drivers looking to accelerate out of line or cornering appreciate more torque. Because it connects directly to the engine, the engine can not run on its own, which means that the car can not run solely on electricity. But that's not the purpose of this system, anyway.
The point is the extra strength, especially the couple. At only 2,000 rpm, the hybrid configuration increases the pulling power of the 911 of 2013 by 61%. Road and track tests, the system reduces the car's time from 0 to 100 km / h from 5.0 seconds to 3.6 seconds. Instead of taking 6.4 seconds to go from 50 to 70 mph, it takes 3.9. This power works perfectly, which earned him the name of "Shadow Drive". You do not need to wait until a turbocharger starts. you do not need to redefine the engine to feel the boost. It's like driving the car downhill or having Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson Help in a showdown. Whatever the metaphor, it makes the car powerful without compromising the balanced character of the 911.
The battery is good for a single kilowatt hour (a Chevy Bolt 60 offers) and fits into the bottom of the trunk (which in the 911 is at the front). Moreland declined to name the "best manufacturer" who supplies the pack, but says his team has chosen it for its ability to provide a lot of power, very quickly. "It's like a small fuel tank with a big pipe," says Davis, Vonnen's chief of engineering. The inverter, which converts the AC current from regenerative braking into a DC sort that the battery can use, is placed in a silver box on the "range" of packages, behind the seats and on the engine. Shiny silver and size of two stacked VCRs, this is the only visible element of the Shadow Drive configuration.
At present, Vonnen can integrate its system to any 911 built between 2012 and 2019 (the seventh or 991 generation of the car). The installation takes about a week in his Santa Clara store, but Moreland and Davis hope to gain efficiency and they want to enter into agreements with other stores around the world to reach customers who do not feel to send their car to northern California. They offer a one year warranty and plan to go longer. This is a good thing, since Porsche itself indicates that it has the right to refuse coverage for "unapproved modifications".
The next step for Vonnen will be to make the necessary changes to adapt Shadow Drive to older generations of the car. It's only fair, it seems, to give people who drive old cars the taste of what a new type of powertrain can do. "A 1970s 911, by modern standards, is not a fast car," Moreland said. Indeed, the 914 edition of 1973 that I'd bought at the age of 20 offered about 100 pound-feet of torque. The Vonnen system would more than double its production.
In total, the system adds about 170 pounds to the car, counting the weight lost due to the ditching of the original flywheel and reducing the 12-volt battery including the car No longer needed. This is not much more than the difference between a full gas tank and an empty gas tank, or the person with whom you are likely to ride and enjoy the fun.
And given the fun it provides, you will probably want to bring a friend, if only to see him have his own oooooohhhhhhhhh moment
Corrected, 6-10-19, 8:55 pm ET: An earlier version of this story did not describe the types of power created by the regenerative braking and the type of power that the battery can use. This also meant that the typical 12-volt battery had been eliminated; it has been reduced but not eliminated.
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