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Super fast and green? How the new breed of sports cars is getting a makeover

From Fred Pleitgen, CNN, and Milena Veselinovic, for CNN
updated 3:50 PM EDT, Tue October 28, 2014
Porsche has unveiled its high-end take on green vehicle production with its Spyder 918, a limited edition hybrid which costs over $1 million. Porsche has unveiled its high-end take on green vehicle production with its Spyder 918, a limited edition hybrid which costs over $1 million.
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Porsche Spyder 918 is a limited edition hybrid costing $1 million
  • It's the latest in a line of eco-friendly cars made by German luxury manufacturers
  • EU leaders' pledges to cut CO2 emissions are putting pressure on companies to innovate

To mark the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, CNN's week-long special Made in Germany will look at how the country's economy has developed since the momentous event.

(CNN) -- Zero to sixty miles in 2.5 seconds. 887 horse power. And a price tag of $1 million.

There is only one thing that doesn't fit the usual supercar narrative when it comes to the Porsche 918 Spyder -- a hybrid engine under its sleek and seductive silhouette.

Manufactured by hand in a workshop at Porsche's Stuttgart headquarters, the car was masterminded with the latest technology, which includes a high-performance hybrid battery developed specially for the Spyder.

In addition to the combustion engine, the car has two electric motors and can be charged in under two hours.

The concept they use here at Porsche is one man, one motor. That means a single worker is responsible for building an entire engine.
Frank-Steffen Walliser, head of the Porsche Spyder 918 project

"With the extra boost we get from the electric motors, we really increased tremendously the drivability with the four wheel drive and also the push of the car," says Frank-Steffen Walliser, who is leading the 918 project.

Alongside its green credentials, the Spyder aims for exclusivity, with only 918 of these road racers planned for manufacture.

A regular Porsche engine takes between three and four hours to build, but for Spyder 918 the figure is closer to 20: "The concept they use here at Porsche is one man, one motor," says Walliser, "that means a single worker is responsible for building an entire engine. That takes a lot of time."

Green revolution

With pledges by EU leaders to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the auto industry has increasingly been under pressure to come up with more environmentally-friendly vehicles, with even high-end brands starting to build electric and hybrid cars.

BMW is leading the way with fully electric i3 model, as well as the i8 hybrid sports cars, and Mercedes will soon introduce the B Class electric drive with a range of up to 200 kilometers, or 125 miles.

"CO2 reduction in general is the most important debate in the whole automotive industry, transport industry," says Frank-Steffen Walliser.

"Hybrid will be one of the solutions, but I believe that there will be no major solution. It's hybrid, it's diesel technology, it's pure electric, but it depends much more on where you use the cars -- is it a city car, a sports car, a van an SUV, or whatever."

Key industry

CO2 reduction in general is the most important debate in the whole automotive industry.
Frank-Steffen Walliser, head of the Porsche Spyder 918 project

Germany's car production is third-highest in the world, and the country's economy relies heavily on its automobile industry which employs around 900,000 people, according to the German Association of Automotive Industry.

"The German auto industry for Germany is the key industry, the key innovator," says Ulrich Eichhorn, the organization's managing director for technology and environment.

"Alternative drive systems are very important for us because they dictate how well the cars function, how their sustainability and environmental acceptability are and of course how well they sell," he adds.

It seems that with luxury brands entering the market, hybrids are about to spice up their practical, worthy image to something much more glamorous.

Read more: Want a top notch college degree but can't afford it? Head to Germany

Read more: Germany: 25 years later and no looking back

Learn more: Germany by numbers: A look inside Europe's economic powerhouse

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