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Porsche plug-in hybrid concept goes fast, saves gas

Porsche launches the 918 Spyder hybrid concept at the 2010 Geneva auto show.

Porsche 918 Spyder concept
The Porsche 918 Spyder concept posts incredible performance, fuel economy numbers. Wayne Cunningham/CNET

GENEVA--Reading the specs on the Porsche 918 Spyder concept shown at the 2010 Geneva auto show, we thought there must be some mistake, as 78 mpg and 3.2 seconds to 60 mph just doesn't sound possible. But the 918 Spyder achieves its numbers through massive horsepower, a lightweight body, and the effect of 16 miles of pure electric range on the New European Driving Cycle, Europe's equivalent to EPA fuel economy testing.

The 918 Spyder looks very cool, with a shape that evokes historic race cars. Borrowing modern race car build technology, it keeps its weight down to 3,285 pounds through the use of carbon fiber for its body shell, along with aluminum and magnesium components.

The gas electric hybrid drive system uses a 3.4-liter V-8 producing 500 horsepower, your basic racing engine, two electric motors producing a combined 218 horsepower, with one on each axle, and a lithium ion battery pack capable of driving the car under electricity for up to 16 miles.

Drivers can choose from four modes for operating the car: eco, which means pure electric; hybrid, a standard mix of gas and electric; sports hybrid, which brings in a performance edge; and racing hybrid, which pulls out all the stops to maximize speed and acceleration. In the latter mode, the driver can also activate the e-boost switch, which adds a full electric boost to the already significant engine horsepower.