The hardware in the 599-based concept has virtually nothing in common with the Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) used by Ferrari's Formula One team in 2009, but company officials say the automaker learned valuable lessons in developing the control algorithms for regenerative braking and using the electric motor to as a performance booster to supplement the gas engine.
The impetus for Ferrari hybrids is a looming European regulation that dictates automakers' fleets average about 140 g CO2/km starting in 2012. Details for small-volume manufacturers are still being discussed, but it's clear that the current produce won't come close to any modern standards. Currently, the 458 Italia produces 307 g CO2/km in emissions testing. Insiders say that during development of the new rules in the middle of the decade, Maranello management fretted over how they could possibly meet the stringent requirements.
We find the HY-KERS solution beautifully Ferrari, as it's an elegant means to being brazenly subversive. The drivetrain is calibrated such that the entire European cycle is driven in electric mode. Then, during the extraurban cycle, load-point shifting allows Ferrari to recharge the battery (as required by the regulations) and operate at a higher efficiency. The result is 35 percent lower CO2 emissions over the combined urban and extra urban cycles. Gains on the highway will be significantly less substantial, but Ferrari is also developing cylinder deactivation and other technologies to improve cruising efficiency.
Best of all, though, is that the V-12's hyperkinetic character is left untouched. A heavy foot will still snap the throttle open, squeeze you against your seat, and unleash a beautiful shriek. Ferrari claims that the gas-electric 599 runs to 124 mph in 7.5 seconds, 0.4 seconds faster than the current 599. We were also relieved that Ferrari officials never once mentioned the idea of a continuously variable transmission in their technical presentation. Of course, we'll have to wait for a drive before we can truly pass judgment.