McLaren Reveals the Engineering Secrets Behind Its Fastest Car
Following the announcement that the Speedtail—the fastest McLaren ever—had completed high-speed validation tests in the United States and reached its maximum speed of 403km/h more than 30 times, McLaren engineers have been asked one question more than any other: ‘How does Speedtail go that fast?’
The answer is that a combination of attributes, including aerodynamic excellence and low vehicle weight, delivers the hybrid Hyper-GT’s astonishing performance. Fundamental to this is a race-bred electric drive system that incorporates pioneering battery technology to set a new benchmark for hybridised efficiency. This unlocks the Speedtail’s intense acceleration from standstill to 300km/h in 13 seconds.
The M840TQ powertrain comprises a 4.0-litre internal combustion engine and an electric drive unit, which together develop up to 1,070PS and maximum torque of 1,150Nm. The V8 engine features technology that has evolved from McLaren’s first hybrid hypercar, the legendary McLaren P1TM. A new lightweight air-intake system, improved cylinder head cooling and a revised piston design contribute 757PS and 800Nm of ‘traditional’ petrol- powered output to the Speedtail.
The electric motor, which uses Formula E-derived technology, generates more than 230kW. It gives the Speedtail the highest performance installation—including cooling and integration—of any electric motor currently in use on a production road car. Power delivery is 8.3kW/kg, which is twice the efficiency of an average sports car.
Engineers from McLaren Applied—the McLaren Group division that focuses on virtual product development, telemetry, electrification and control—worked with the Speedtail Electric Drive Technology team to integrate its ground-breaking motorsport-developed inverter and DC/DC converter technology into the electric drive system, ensuring the levels of control and power management required for the hybrid Hyper-GT to realise its extraordinary performance.
The high voltage energy storage system is where the Speedtail truly innovates. A high power cylindrical cell arranged in a unique array, the 1.647kWh unit is at the cutting edge of battery technology, being extremely compact and delivering the best power-to-weight ratio of any high voltage battery available today. As an indication of how McLaren technology has advanced, the power density of this battery is four times that of the unit in the McLaren P1TM, providing 5.2kW/kg and an output of 270kW.
The design and integration of the battery system enable the Speedtail to achieve its maximum speed by intelligent energy deployment, with these headline figures achievable because the cells are thermally controlled by a dielectrical cooling system and permanently immersed in a lightweight, electrically insulative oil which quickly transfers heat away from the cells. This system, the first of its kind in a production road car, is highly efficient and allows the cells to run harder and for longer.
McLaren has deployed wireless technology to manage battery conditioning and charging when a Speedtail is not being driven, ensuring that the electric drive system is immediately ready to assist the internal combustion engine. This fully managed system incorporates a positioning aid to align with the charging pad. State of charge is displayed in the instrument cluster and is also accessible to the owner via an app—another example of the attention to technical detail that makes the Speedtail a car like no other.