Peugeot’s 2021 Le Mans racer is limited to 680hp, but capable of nearly 1,000hp

It’s called the Hybrid4 500KW
by Stephen Dobie | Dec 20, 2020
PHOTO: Peugeot
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This, Internet, is the powertrain of Peugeot Sport’s new Le Mans hypercar. The world’s most famous endurance race—and the World Endurance Championship it headlines—is adopting new rules soon, rules exciting enough to entice the French company back onto the grid.

It is—inevitably—hybrid. What we see here is a mid-mounted V6 gasoline engine, driving the rear wheels via a seven-speed sequential gearbox, supplemented by a motor that solely operates the front axle, and which is fed by a 900V battery. Peugeot calls it ‘Hybrid4 500KW.’

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The engine is a 2.6-liter twin-turbo producing 680hp, while the motor is rated at 272hp. However, the rules from 2021 (Peugeot’s entry debuting in 2022) cap total output at 680hp, meaning those two figures will adjust as necessary. In simple terms, the engine power will be capped until the battery is depleted, so once the motor is out the game, the engine alone can meet the maximum output figure dictated by the FIA.

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But as ever with motorsport rulebooks, it’s not quite that simple. The electric motor is allowed to run in the pit lane, but beyond it, it’s only allowed to chip in above 120kph. Which means for race starts and in lower-speed corners, the car will be rear-wheel drive, the full 4WD effect of engine and motor working in tandem only being available on long straights and through higher-speed corners. The electric motor can also act as an alternator on the engine, boosting total output to 700hp “at the end of straights when the battery is empty.”

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Sounds complex, but there’ll be sensors mounted to each wheel, to “transmit the power levels measured at all four wheels to the FIA in real time to guarantee the maximum output specified by the Balance of Performance (BoP).” Oh yeah, BoP’s going nowhere in WEC’s new age.

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Other interesting bits? It’s been developed alongside Total, and the engine is brand-new, made specifically for this application. “We initially considered a single turbo, but that would have prevented us from achieving our engine’s centre of gravity target,” says Francois Coudrain, the WEC program powertrain director. “A twin-turbo V6 block offers the best trade-off between technology, weight, packaging of the engine’s ancillaries, reliability, and performance.”

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Peugeot’s hypercar will run a brake-by-wire system, allowing the driver to adjust the levels of engine braking to achieve the best split of electric regenerative and hydraulic braking.

While the WEC’s new hypercar class was originally announced as a production-car class—meaning everything competing in the top rung of the 24 Hours of Le Mans would need a corresponding road car, like we’re expecting from Toyota—the rules appeared to have relaxed a little now, suggesting a strong link between the racing and a production powertrain is what’s necessary. Which, if it pops that twin-turbo V6 in something we can actually buy, is still exciting, huh?

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NOTE: This article first appeared on TopGear.com. Minor edits have been made.

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PHOTO: Peugeot
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