GENEVA SPECIAL: FERRARI'S HYBRID FUTURE
Under the skin of the Ferrari 599 hybrid 'rolling laboratory'
These two behemoths, painted in a very Ferrari red, form the twin beating hearts of Ferrari's 'Trigeneration' plant. This is essentially Ferrari's very own power station, a super-efficient, state-of-the-art facility that produces power, hot water and 'super-heated' water for the whole factory.
Which brings us to the car you see in these pictures. Despite looking almost every inch an ordinary 599, this is a hybrid concept - Ferrari's first - and, much like those two 20-cylinder powerhouses, it doesn't want for power or performance.
But don't expect to walk into a Ferrari dealership in 12 months' time to find a showroom full of green petrol-electric cars - the folks at Maranello are firm about the car's concept status and describe Kermit the Ferrari as a 'rolling laboratory' for future technology.
Ferrari has arrived at hybrid technology almost reluctantly, with the creeping realisation that, however hard its engineers try, they won't be able to bring the efficiency gains required to meet ever more stringent emissions regulations without radical changes to the way a Ferrari produces its power.
To put the scale of the problem into context, the current Ferrari range's average CO2 output is 305g/km. That needs to be more than halved to 140g/km by 2012 (although the fact that a production hybrid Ferrari is more than three years away does rather suggest that this particular target won't be met even in a best-case scenario). Getting this achieved solely by clever weight saving tricks, lower and lower rolling resistance tyres, tricky transmissions and super-slippery shapes (all of which Ferrari is working on) is nigh-on impossible.
Creating a hybrid Ferrari is not a simple case of bunging on an electric motor and hoping for the best, however. Ferrari is hard at work developing a hybrid drivetrain that can be adapted to either its front-engined V12 models or its mid-engined V8 cars with minimal fuss via a dual-clutch gearbox (not yet available on the 'ordinary' 599 but already present in the 458 and California). It has also developed its own entirely bespoke electric motor - one that does the work of both alternator and starter motor. A chucked-together backroom project this is not.
As well as improving fuel economy, the electric motor will also provide a 'boost' to performance (think KERS in Formula One), while any weight gains should be offset by weight-saving measures. This includes some stuff as simple as getting rid of the now-redundant alternator and conventional battery (regenerative braking helps keep the electric motor charged and that powers the car's ancillary electric systems.
As its super-efficient power-generation engines show, Ferrari is taking green engineering very seriously, but as the 599 hybrid concept appears to reveal, it is doing so to make sure its cars remain every bit as exhilarating - and fast - as they always have been.