As the automotive industry moves towards a zero-emission future, overcoming the significant challenges in implementing hybrid and fully electrified powertrains becomes increasingly paramount. Cutting weight and improving efficiency are the key to customer acceptance and ensuring electrified vehicles become mainstream. This is where McLaren Applied comes in.
P1 hybrid system
In 2009, we were tasked with creating the electric drive system for the McLaren P1 supercar. Key to the requirements of the world’s first hybrid supercar was that the addition of an electric drive system must improve the car’s performance on the racetrack and this demanded power-to-weight ratios that were only just starting to be seen in Formula 1 kinetic energy recovery systems.
McLaren Applied took on the challenge of developing an electric motor, motor control unit and 14V DC/DC converter capable of bringing unrivalled performance advantage to the road.
When the P1 went into production four years later, we had established a strong position as a supplier of automotive-qualified electric drive systems. The electric motor and inverter we designed and built for the supercar provided up to 120 kW of mechanical output power with a total mass of 42 kg.
The P1’s combined 903-bhp hybrid powertrain proved revolutionary, and its ability to function entirely on electric mode demonstrated that engineering creativity could enable high performance to mesh seamlessly with city-friendly capabilities. Furthermore, the electric motor reduced fuel consumption while providing instant torque and was also used by all Formula E teams, which underlined the fluid transfer and application between our motorsport and automotive technology.
In an evolution of the technology that underpinned McLaren’s game-changing P1 hybrid supercar, we developed the next incarnation of our successful inverter for the McLaren Speedtail.
Like its predecessor, the inverter was designed and manufactured by McLaren Applied, conformed to all relevant automotive industry standards, and incorporated a DC/DC converter which stepped down the high voltage required for the motor to 14V for the low-voltage electrical components on the car – eliminating the need for an alternator.
A high-voltage DC bus, combined with liquid cooling, allowed for high motor power in a very compact form. And while the inverter occupied a similar volume to its predecessor, it had almost double power density.
This significant step forward within a single generation of this technology was only possible through our ability to rapidly iterate and hone our expertise, and it represents just one of many milestones on our journey of accelerated learning. A journey that has since seen us spearhead the next step change in power electronics by using silicon carbide as a switching technology to achieve greater efficiency, and a more compact design that doesn’t compromise reliability or performance.