To many car purists, petrol is still king when it comes to powering those V12 engines. The current supercar industry may be filled with petrol guzzlers, but the automotive scene is changing as manufacturers explore clean energy that will deliver the same thrill and speed.
It is the only way forward to “remain relevant to the market”, says George Biggs, who is British high-performance automotive maker McLaren’s head of sales and operations in the Asia-Pacific. The 29-year-old Brit moved from the manufacturer’s headquarters in Woking, UK, to Singapore earlier this year. “A V12 engine is probably not a dying technology, but its significance to the market is reducing. Manufacturers cannot ignore hybrid technology.”
Any doubt that hybrids lack power is put to bed with McLaren’s first hybrid-drive supercar P1, which has a 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 petrol engine. It goes from rest to 300 kmh in less than 17 seconds – five whole seconds faster than McLaren’s legendary F1, which was touted as the world’s fastest production car in the 1990s.
Sales figures show that car buffs are warming up to hybrids. All 375 units of P1 – “my mantra is to produce one less than what the market wants”, says the economist by training who calculated the allocation of this limited production run – were snapped up globally last year within eight weeks. Seven have been sold in Singapore, even though the million-dollar supercar is available only in left-hand drive.
If the P1 is not electrifying enough, a souped-up version will soon be available to owners of the existing road car. The track-only P1 GTR will pack 986bhp of horsepower, up from 903bhp.
“I think people are starting to have a greater appreciation of what McLaren is trying to do. We are a really young brand. Even though we have had 50 years in Formula One, which has led us to where we are today, we’ve been producing road cars for only three years.
“The only reason McLaren has used hybrid technology is purely to increase performance. It is all about enhancing a driver’s experience. Our design philosophy is very much form follows function. How we use hybrid technology is going to become very interesting. You will see a lot more carmakers downsizing an engine that is actually more powerful at the same time.”