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Ferrari unveils hyper-hybrid

2013-03-06 07:32

NEW BREED OF FERRARIS: Ferrari has unveiled a show-stopper at the 2013 Geneva auto show. The LeFerrari joins a new breed of hyper-hybrids next to the Porsche 918 Spyder and McLaren's P1.

GENEVA, Switzerland - The prancing pony badge now sits on a super-green car as Ferrari dazzled crowds at the 2013 Geneva auto show with its new LaFerrari.

Indian billionaire industrialist Ratan Tata pored over every centimetre of the R11-million LaFerrari on the Italian supercar-maker's stand at the show.

Ferrari's first petrol/electric hybrid "looks terrific", said Tata, one of India's wealthiest businessmen and a close friend of Ferrari chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo.

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But would he buy one? "I don't have the money," Tata joked.

The issue is moot: every one of the 499 LaFerraris slated for production is already spoken for. Sergio Marchionne, chief executive of Ferrari's parent company Fiat says he has reserved one for himself.

The LaFerrari is perhaps the most electrifying debut at this year's Geneva show, and not only because of its sleek carbon-fibre body or its top speed of more than 350km/h. It is one of a new breed of hyper-hybrid sports cars that combines a powerful petrol engine with electric motors.

But why would Ferrari, famous for its prancing pony badge on thoroughbred and thirsty supercars, instal a hybrid powertrain in a performance car?

"Two reasons," says Montezemolo. "The first is that we always aim to improve our driving experience. The second that we need to meet CO2 emissions standards."

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The LaFerrari joins an elite fraternity that includes Porsche and Formula 1 stalwart McLaren, which on Tuesday (March 5, 2013) unveiled the production version of its new P1 sports car.

As Porsche has done with its 918 Spyder, Ferrari and McLaren have adapted advanced technologies from their motorsport programmes for these street-legal sports cars, notably the extensive use of carbon-fibre composites to reduce weight and increase structural strength.

All three use variations of a hybrid system, originally developed for racing, which recovers and stores electrical energy then uses it to supplement power from the petrol engine under acceleration or at high speed.

Increased performance is the main reason for adding these complex and expensive systems; both the McLaren and the Ferrari deliver a combined 670kW or more from their petrol/electric powertrains.

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Side benefits, as noted by Montezemolo, include reduced fuel consumption and lower CO2 emissions, but "this is not about saving gas", argues auto consultant Jim Hall, MD of Michigan-based 2953 Analytics. "It's about taking socially questionable projects and giving them a veneer of propriety and relevance."

Tom Gage, CEO of California-based EV Grid and an expert on electric vehicles said: "Ferrari and McLaren will benefit from the green image and the environmental implications of offering this technology."

The addition of electric motors and battery packs on sports cars is more geared toward speed and acceleration than reducing carbon emissions. In this instance, Gage says, the application of supplemental electric power "is instantaneous and smooth, and should improve the responsiveness and driveability" of the cars.

Porsche laid the foundation for this generation of hyper-hybrids with the 918 Spyder, a concept car three years earlier at the 2010 Geneva show. The production version of the car is to reach showrooms later in 2013 priced at the equivalent of around R7-million. The car mates a 4.6 V8 with two electric motors - one front, the other rear - to generate a combined output of 575kW and a projected top speed of more than 325km/h.

The McLaren P1, unveiled as a concept car at the late-2012 Paris auto show, uses a single electric motor combined with a twin-turbo 3.8 V8 that together deliver 673kW and a top speed electronically limited to 350km/h.


The LaFerrari couples a 6.3 V12 with an electric motor to make 718kW and a top speed in excess of 350km/h, making it the fastest road-going Ferrari yet.

Ferrari claims the zero to 100km/h run takes less than three seconds and zero to 300km/h takes 15 seconds.

While none of the three will challenge the Toyota Prius for the title of world's best-selling hybrid car, they should at least begin to reshape the definition of exactly what constitutes a hybrid.

Until then, Porsche is content to label its 918 Spyder "the super sports car of tomorrow".

Check out the latest models in our Geneva show section.
Read more on:    2013 geneva auto show

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