Ferrari is in a bind. To put it gently, the world is changing and not in way the company likes. Every other car company is working overtime to bring an electric car or two to market, even iconic sports car brands like Porsche and Jaguar. But Ferrari is having none of it. Oh, it may make a hybrid or two but only to boost performance. It says it is not all that interested in emissions standards. What it is interested in is howling, shrieking internal combustion engines, the same thing Enzo Ferrari was interested in when he founded the company 70 years ago.
“We would not follow to develop a fully electric car,” Ferrari’s chief technology officer, Michael Leiters, said at the Paris auto show. He was in attendance to show off the LaFerrari Aperta, a roadster version the LaFerrari hybrid supercar that boasts a V-12 gasoline engine for the rear wheels and an electric motor for the fronts.
“We are convinced that it’s right to have a hybrid car because, for us, the sound is a very crucially important characteristic of a Ferrari, and our customers want to have this. Definitely for us also, the electric technology is interesting, not for reducing emissions but for increasing the performance of the cars,” Leiters said.
But like everyone else, Ferrari will have to conform to various global emissions standards if it wants to continue selling cars. To get there, Leiters says, it may have to offer smaller engines coupled to fast discharging hybrid power, which is precisely what the current Formula One technical rules call for.
To keep prices high (some would say stratospheric), Ferrari limits its annual production to just 10,000 cars, which is significantly below the worldwide demand. Many of its best customers are wealthy enough that they can afford to build private roads if they wish to. It is not uncommon for owners of some of Ferrari’s mightiest cars to leave them in the care of the company until they can fly in to Maranello and take them out on Fiorano, Ferrari’s private test track. Many Ferraris are only driven a few hundred miles a year.
“For us, it’s important to have the right combination, with [engine] and battery power,” Leiters says.. “There’s a lot to do. For us, today, the weight [of batteries] is still too much to have a highly dynamic and highly agile car.” In addition, he says, “we are convinced that at a certain time there will be a step forward also for Ferrari with a hybrid car.”
In Paris, neither Leiters nor Nicola Boar, Ferrari’s product marketing director, would rule out a return to V-6 power for the first time since the 1974 Dino. Such an engine would be coupled to an electric motor to give the car the performance its customers expect while complying with European emissions rules.
“I don’t like to cover our future right now, obviously, but, yes, battery technology on electric cars and so on is going ahead very fast, and you can see quite bold steps in regard to power and capacity,” Boari added. “Obviously, if you’re thinking about a hybrid car, the [reality] is that you will have extra weight, and you have to accommodate that. You have to find a solution that is more compact than today and weighs less than today. You also have to think more about downsizing—eight cylinders, or six cylinders, or whatever—it makes sense.”
Will the absence of an electric car in the Ferrari lineup or smaller engines with hybrid power trains cut into Ferrari sales? Not as long as the final product has the bark and bite of a tried and true Ferrari engine nestled somewhere under the bodywork.
Source: Car And Driver Photo credit: Ferrari