Ferrari used the Geneva motor show to unveil its new hybrid technology, which it says will not only make its cars more efficient but will also markedly improve performance and handling. The addition of an electric motor to the drivetrain will also be accompanied by other efficiency measures, including engine downsizing and advanced aerodynamic concepts.
Ferrari's Hybrid Concept is based on an otherwise standard 599, with a 100hp electric motor boosting the car's 611hp 6.0-liter V12 engine. Serious road testing of the prototype system is about to begin, according to engineers. But sources say Ferrari's hybrid drivetrains will not go into production for at least three years; they will probably make their debut in a 599 replacement. By 2018, most of Ferrari's lineup will have at least the option of a hybrid drivetrain.
Ferrari's hybrid design is notably compact and can be integrated relatively simply into both the company's front- and mid-engined layouts. The company considered a number of different concepts, including a version using a four-wheel-drive hybrid with an electrically driven front axle, but settled on a small electric motor attached to the rear of a dual-clutch gearbox (shown below). This motor is meshed directly with the gearbox's primary shaft, which holds the odd-numbered gear ratios.
The 100hp electric motor develops 110lb-ft of torque and is backed up by an 80kWh battery made up of very slim (20mm thick) cells mounted under the floor.
Other changes include the electronics control module (mounted in the trunk, with cooling pumps) and a small electric motor/generator mounted on the front of the engine. This drives the ancillaries (including the air conditioning and power steering) when the car is running purely on battery power. At the moment, however, the system's electric-only range is estimated to be just three miles. It also includes a stop-start system, with the electric motor being used to restart the petrol engine.
Ferrari estimates that, even with the extra 220lbs of weight resulting from the hybrid installation, in-gear acceleration will be improved, including shaving the 0-124mph sprint time back to just 10.4sec from 11.0sec. The 599's center of gravity has not risen; it remains just 19in. off the ground.
Ferrari's engineers have developed ways of using the electric motor to improve the car's traction and corner exit acceleration. They say future hybrid models will get a new form of super-fast traction control (ETC) that works by reversing the electric motor's torque in milliseconds to steady a slipping car, rather than by cutting the engine's torque, a tactic that hampers progress.
The millisecond response time of the motor will also be used for “Electronic Torque Shaping.” This introduces torque “blips” from the hybrid electric motor to smooth the gasoline engine's torque delivery, giving the driver a more linear throttle response. Ferrari claims that using the ETC and ETS together will greatly improve acceleration out of corners.
Don't worry, they're working on new gas engines, too
Engineering a hybrid drivetrain is not the only efficiency program on the agenda of Ferrari's engineers. A wider, two-pronged approach is also being pursued.
Under “Engine Efficiency,” the engineers are working on reducing internal engine friction (using needle bearings, lighter valve trains, thinner oil and slippery internal coatings), improved combustion (including diesel-style multiple fuel injections) and even cylinder deactivation.
Ferrari engineers are also considering downsizing future engines, as well as supercharging and turbocharging, to deliver more power from a smaller capacity.
Adding all these technologies together could bring fuel economy improvements of up to 36 percent with a future V12 car. Stop-start will also become standard; the system is being introduced on the California this spring.
Under the “Vehicle Energy Saving” program, Ferrari wants a significant drop in rolling resistance (said to
be tricky when lateral grip has improved so much on today's cars). This will encompass weight reduction and reducing the size of future cars, particularly trying to make them narrower. A further 20 percent reduction in aerodynamic drag will require more in the way of active aerodynamics, including active diffusers under the rear of the car and sophisticated “wheel arch and wheel rim airflow management.”
Vehicle ancillaries, such as the power steering, alternator and air conditioning systems, will also have to become much more energy efficient.