Secrets of the Speedtail: the tech behind McLaren’s hybrid hyper-GT
A glimpse into the electro-mechanical wizardry that’s endowed the McLaren Speedtail with the highest specific battery power of any production road car
Following the announcement of the Speedtail – the fastest McLaren ever –completing high-speed validation tests in the United States and reaching a top speed of 403kmph more than 30 times, McLaren engineers have been asked one question more than any other: How does the 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 300kmph in a scant 13 seconds and the aforementioned 403kmph top end.
Under the hood
The M840TQ powertrain comprises a 4-litre twin-turbo V8 petrol engine and an electric drive unit, which together develop up to 1055bhp and maximum torque of 1150Nm. Also on offer is technology from McLaren’s first hybrid hypercar, the legendary P1. A new lightweight air-intake system, improved cylinder head cooling and a revised piston design contribute 747bhp and 800Nm of ‘traditional’ petrol-powered output to the Speedtail.
The electric motor, which uses Formula E-derived technology, generates more than 308bhp. 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 P1, providing 5.2kW/kg and an output of 362bhp.
The design and integration of the battery system enables 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.
Further information about the Speedtail, together with film of the car in action during final high-speed testing, click here