Automotive

Porsche unveils high-tech 918 facility

The Porsche 918 Spyder body shell being installed
The Porsche 918 Spyder body shell being installed
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The Porsche 918 Spyder
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The Porsche 918 Spyder
The Porsche 918 Spyder body shell being installed
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The Porsche 918 Spyder body shell being installed
The Porsche 918 Spyder facility uses a scissor lift platform
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The Porsche 918 Spyder facility uses a scissor lift platform
The Porsche 918 Spyder platforms adjust ergonomically
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The Porsche 918 Spyder platforms adjust ergonomically
Layout of the Porsche 918 Spyder facility
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Layout of the Porsche 918 Spyder facility

The Porsche 918 Spyder hybrid supercar has been called the "genetic blueprint for the Porsche sports car of the future," but the technical innovations aren't restricted to the car's two electric power systems and V8 engine punching 887 bhp. The company has also put a lot of innovation into its Porsche 918 Spyder factory in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen. The 4,000 sq m (43,000 sq ft) facility where the 918 is hand built employs 100 people and uses a new take on the assembly line.

Production of the 918 began at Zuffenhausen in 2013. Based on a watchmaker's cleanroom, the factory consists of 18 stations making up four production stages, where the monocoque, the engines, the leather finish, and the body shell are assembled. The L-shaped layout, where almost all of the assembly is carried out, appears surprisingly well lit and open and not at all like the popular idea of a car assembly line.

It's also a bit slower than the usual assembly line. Producing each car takes about 100 hours, which includes continuous testing during assembly before the car is taken by a lift to a testing area on the floor below for a final check out. Using the "one technician, one engine" principle, it takes 40 hours to make each engine for the 918. Even the leather sun visor cover takes 200 hand stitches and 40 minutes of work. Assembly would take even longer, except that Porsche has introduced a high degree of standardization and plug-and-play components.

The Porsche 918 Spyder facility uses a scissor lift platform
The Porsche 918 Spyder facility uses a scissor lift platform

Porsche says that the reason behind this leisurely pace is the promotion of high precision, high quality workmanship. The line uses the Porsche herringbone model, where the work stations are supplied by pre-assembly areas to the left of the line. The cars are carried on electric-powered platforms and when assembled leave in electric mode, so the assembly is strangely quiet.

One innovation that makes this possible is the scissors lift platform that holds the cars during assembly, starting with the interior and working outwards. These battery-operated platforms move from station to station and adjust ergonomically for heavy tasks, such as fitting large batteries or when fitting the body shell. Assembly of the Porsche 918 Spyder is based on the two-seater monocoque passenger cabin, and the scissor lift platforms allows the monocoque to be lifted, tilted, and rotated to provide the best angle for adding components with a minimum of struggle, such as when fitting the wiring harness.

Porsche says that this is especially important during the drivetrain assembly because it allows the connection of the electric motor and gearbox assembly to be positioned and bolted onto the monocoque with relative ease despite their weight.

The Porsche 918 Spyder
The Porsche 918 Spyder

Another innovation is the Bluetooth-controlled cordless screwdrivers. These are cordless and wireless and virtually silent, which cuts down on factory noise and makes it easier to reach where needed. In addition, the screwdrivers are connected to a database that records the torque applied to all safety-specific screws, so they can be checked and corrected later if needs be. Porsche says that the new factory is exclusively cordless for all tools and platforms as a way maintain the floor's open plan, increase work flexibility, and reduce component damage.

According to the company, the Zuffenhausen location has an historic link to the 911 series, but it has many practical benefits. For one thing, it allows the 918 line to link with the 911 series' production "pearl chain," so the 918 line can draw on other facilities' experience and equipment during final assembly. In addition, the Zuffenhausen area provides the 918 line with an experienced labor pool that would otherwise be difficult to recruit.

Production of the 918 Spyder will continue until the middle of this year.

Source: Porsche

9 comments
Freyr Gunnar
887 horsepower is equal to 661 kW. Considering that a perfectly average cyclist can put out 100W, the engine in that car is equal to over… 6,000 cyclists. In addition, in the vast majority of countries, cars aren't allowed to go faster than 130km/90mph. And the vast majority of day-to-day travels are just a few kilometers. Isn't it a huge waste of resources? Shouldn't we restrict the use of oil for tasks for which it has no alternative?
Mariusz Gyan
For most of time this car will use less then say 80 horsepower(full power is used very rarely). This is enough to drive with constant speed 80km/h. If it uses 11L per 100km driving slowley then its not far worse then most of cars with 3.0 L engines
BendBrad
In repy to Freyr; No.
Mac McDougal
I feel compelled to respond to BendBrad using his style of argumentation: In reply to BB; you're wrong! To expand now: Mr. Freyr has pinpointed the absurdity of the Porsche 918 and all other such prosthetic phalli: they have more power (and less rational justification) than almost any other vehicle. If it were just a case of elderly rich guys trying to recapture their youth, we could give them a pass. But the consumption the cars entail is less easily forgiven. Here's an idea: given that we live in a world of de-constructivist post-modern signifiers, why not build the 918 without the power train? It could still perform its main function (gaining the attention of young women) while mitigating its impact on Mother Earth. Why not?
StWils
Actually, Freyr and others, me included are correct. In order to keep within a 2Centigrade temperature rise over the next 50 years we pretty much have to abandon using fossil fuels. Carbon emissions can in fact kill us, or at least many of us. However, in the meantime, until alternatives come on line to replace fossil sources of energy we can at least admire punching it and getting 60mph in a handful of seconds. Pick the low hanging fruit for energy efficiency and make these alternatives as affordable as possible. Economic forces and changing technology will pull the rest along, hopefully before the heat rises too much. Along this line of thought last week there was a Gizmag article about Toyota, ( I think?), making it's hydrogen patents more broadly available. So, how long until Porsche has a 9XX that hauls ass on Hydrogen?
Stephen N Russell
Love to tour & drive Porsches on Co test track, awesome & sample Rhine wines & bratwurst, awesome experience.
RightToDissent
First, the 918 was built as a hybrid specifically in response to tighter emission standards, so this is a terrible car to point to when discussing gas guzzling supercars. Second, yes, these cars are useful, for automotive progress. Many innovations that are pioneered on these cars eventually make their way to plainer cars. Third, these cars aren't just cars. A supercar like the 918 is a work of engineering art. Lack of appreciation for it's beauty doesn't invalidate it. Make no mistake, supercars aren't made for the morning commute, look elsewhere. These cars are made to be driven on racetracks and winding mountain roads of the back country for the sheer joy of it. Rent a Spyder sometime and see what I mean. Cheers!
Rishabh Sharma
Me and my friend were just having a conversation about how unsafe it is to use identical joints just for the sake of ease in production and service. His argument: They should make safer cars. What if the car meets with an accident. It should be strong. My argument: When you're at 300kmph,and you meet an accident this: http://autoclassifieds.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/d56dd__need-for-speed-full-length-trailer-mp4-20131119-191830-921gkk.jpg this: http://db.carbuzz.com/images2/310000/4000/400/314455.jpg and this: http://kep.cdn.index.hu/1/0/440/4405/44059/4405904_99e465c817f5f6449e4d4f5762416af9_wm.jpg happens. So no point having stronger joints. :)
Michael Wilson
It wouldn't be gizmag without the regular naysayers and those who hate automotive progress or anything fun. I agree with RightToDIssent. This vehicle is an engineering work of art, whose trailblazing technologies will eventually become refined and made cheaper to work their way towards less expensive vehicles. This, the Ferrari La Ferrari, the Mclaren P1 and the Telsa Model S to a lesser extent are paving the way towards no compromise vehicles. I hope for one day to have a vehicle that is reliable, fast, handles well, looks good and still gets good fuel economy, whilst not polluting so much. Most of the vehicles in this category also cost a lot, but the industry is slowing getting there. Not all of us want to ride in a neutered Prius or an anemic Nissan Leaf