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Should Ferrari Have to Build Hybrids?

| Tuesday May 25th, 2010 | 16 Comments

My father has a 1964 Triumph TR4 sports car. I have no idea what the mileage or emissions are, but they can’t be great. I’m sure it wouldn’t pass the smog test here in California, nor measure up to President Obama’s recently instituted CAFE standards for new cars — not by a mile.

In fact, my fear is that some day, when either I or my sister inherits that gorgeous car (it’s a perennial source of sibling rivalry), it will be either prohibitively expensive — or outright illegal — to put it on the road.

Which brings me to Ferrari, maker of dream vehicles for car aficionados the world over. Recently, Ferrari’s CEO Amadeo Felisa complained to Autocar magazine that making exotic sports cars environmentally friendly is..kind of silly.

Here’s the quote, via Autobloggreen:

The issue of emissions for Ferrari is more a political one than real one. Lowering emissions of every Ferrari will not save the planet, but it will cost us a lot of money.

In a recent article, Jeremy Clarkson, a popular auto writer for the Times of London, railed at the “green eyed monster” that is forcing sports car makers to mess with the growling perfection under the hood, calling hybrid engines “horrific, unimaginative, short-term, blinkered nonsense.”

Clarkson then went on to spew his own nonsense about what is and isn’t environmentally friendly (he’s a car writer, not a climate scientist), before concluding that the sole benefit of tightening emissions standards is that they give sports car designers, who according to him perfected the automobile decades ago, something to do.

Ferrari’s solution to stricter regulations is the hybrid prototype 599 HY-KERS, introduced at the Geneva autoshow this year. The HY-KERS combines a V12 engine with an electrical motor that can power the car “around town,” lowering emissions and increasing fuel efficiency, which is crucial for the company to comply with increasingly strict government regulations.

In fact, the hybrid engine is being seen as a way to save the mighty V12 engine from forced retirement. V12s eat up an enormous amount of fuel and spew a heck of a lot of CO2 out the tailpipe.

But they also power the sublime automotive excess that turns vehicles created by companies like Ferrari, Lamborghini and others into fantasy machines. And while it is unclear what affect the hybrid motor will have on performance, one auto blog called it an “albatross.”

So here’s the question: Should there be exceptions to our relentless, entirely justified march towards greater fuel efficiency and lower emissions? Should some companies be allowed to continue to imagine, design and build cars based on a wasteful and dirty, yet viscerally satisfying technology?


▼▼▼      16 Comments     ▼▼▼

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  • http://www.jointhe100.com/the_100_supercar_club.php Supercar Club Fan

    This is my kind of car!

  • autogyro

    Clarkson is an obsolete motor mouth goon. His comments about hybrids are as crass as Patrick Head using that sick comment 'Shock and Awe' to describe the noise of an F1 engine, which if you use common sense and think, is ONLY heard by those at meetings and not at all on the TV where 99 percent of F1 followers listen.
    I have rebuilt a number of TRs from 2 through to 6. The original 4 cylinder TR engine was also used in the Ferguson tractor, one of which I modified years ago to run very effectively on powdered straw. The later six had one of the first TJ slide injection systems and either can easily be adapted to run on ethanol. So your argument against CO2 neutral transport from your TR is rubbish by a country mile.
    The truth is that the motor head morons are standing in the way of technoligical development that most of them do not even understand. They want the rest of us to continue suffering from the continued use of 19th century ic transport. Hybrid and then full electric is the only sensible way forward and idiots like Clarkson have got to be silenced.
    Ferrari has simply added more complex gearboxes and electric engines to an obsolete complex fuel wasting device in their 599, they have a huge way to go to gain any credibility in the modern world.

  • nickaster

    I agree that it's really silly for Ferrari to bother with a hybrid engine. Why are the doing it? There isn't anyone regulating them to do so, right? An all -electic Ferrari to compete with Tesla one the other hand, now that's an idea!

    • BC Upham

      But would an all-electric Ferrari be a Ferrari? That's what I'm getting at here.

      • nickaster

        Sure why not? It's just a sign of the times… it wouldn't be the *same* Ferarri, that's for sure, but the demand will be there some day, so they might as well explore it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jen.boynton Jen Boynton

    Rest assured BC, my car guy tells me that a '64 tr4 is exempt from smog checks because of it's age. But I'd keep that a secret from your sister :)

  • Dan

    The TR4 would absolutely pass CAFE standards. It doesn't weigh anything and in reasonable running condition gets about 30mpg. As far as passing a California emissions test it would easily pass, since it would be based on the standard for a can manufactured in 1964: no test. (Keep fighting the sibling on that point). If the car was a 1976, you'd be up a creek, since that car needs to be smogged.

    Another take on the point Ferrari makes though, is that getting a 0.25% increase in fuel economy in a delivery truck would do a lot more for the the climate than a 200% improvement in a Ferrari would (see how far each is likely to be driven)

    Also, a 1976 Triumph has more emissions testing done on it for the 1000 miles it might get driven in a year than a big rig that goes 300,000 miles per year. I challenge CARB to get on top of that situation stat!

    • BC Upham

      I am happy it is not a '76 Triumph, for many reasons.

  • keith gerrard

    Ferrari had to build the 599 hybrid to meet the regulations, they will have all their range hybrid very soon, they have stated this already. Electric technology is a revolution going on under the noses of the world population. In the USA, vehicle technology is at least 30 years behind the rest of the world and this is why companies like GM are dieing, while the motor head morons running them STILL go brrm brrrm and try to look bald and macho. The ic engine was obsolete many years ago and it has only been the greedy criminal oil and its lap dog vehicle manufacturing that has kept the public in this stone age simply for their own vested interests.
    This corruption goes back to before WW2, in the 30s most American Cities had electric public transport and electric cars could be recharged from the infra structure, it was GM that bought all this up and replaced it with PETROL buses and cars. You get what you deserve America.

  • RP Siegel

    I think perhaps it's time to take a good look at the”need for speed” as a form of recreation, that has millions of people buzzing around in noisy unregulated gas guzzling machines whether it be in the form of a sports car, an ATV, jet ski, speedboats snowmobile, etc. Some of these have legitimate uses, as do SUV's for off road work, winter rescue, or what have you and motorcycles which are often used for transportation. But the vast majority of these are used to nourish boyish adrenaline cravings and little else. I, for one can get my thrills in cleaner ways, be it skiing or biking down a big hill, sailing or whitewater boating. There will likely come a time when the use of these toys will be reined in because they will be too expensive to operate or perhaps replaced by electric versions that might involve certain performance compromises that will, no doubt rankle the purists. Call me a killjoy if you want, but as I watch the unfolding horror in the Gulf of Mexico, I can't help thinking that maybe we would have been better off without the internal combustion engine.

  • http://www.premierevelocity.com Dave Morgan

    Surely its all about the engineering, If Ferrari start producing hybrid cars you know that the styling will be some of the sexiest on the planet so to be honest give them a challenge. As you saw on top gear pure battery plug and play isnt the way, but a car that has a hybrid motor doesnt mean you have to loose out on speed. Hybrid motors work differently which can instantly start feeding into the original way that Ferrai style their cars. Get on the band wagon before you are a banned wagon…..

  • Rob Bryan

    I agree in principle with autogyro. As a private company, Ferrari should be allowed to build anything they want. But if they want to drive it on our planet, it needs to meet certain standards. As for Felisa's comment- “but it will cost us a lot of money”, That's ok too, as long as he's referring to his customers and not “us” us. That's the point of carbon pricing and cafe standards, let Ferrari decide what to build and how, to established standards. No, they don't have to build hybrids.

  • http://www.redvoidmusic.com/blog redvoid

    Of course Ferrari should not be forced to build hybrids. Hybrids are not the solution, and neither is ethanol. Electric cars on the other hand ARE, and electricity is getting more green all the time. As has already been mentioned, EV vehicles like the Tesla Roadster are already faster than Porsche 911s, so their performance critique is not overblown, its just plain incorrect. Sounds like their CEO is really just whining that they have to do some work again, since they are clearly just resting on their laurels with gas combustion engines they designed long ago. If they do decide to keep doing things how they are doing them though, they will only hurt themselves. Witness the already knowable present of car fleets with the worst overall gas mileage (like GM & Ford) are getting left in the dust sales wise, by the car makers with the overall best gas mileage (Toyota & Honda). Anyone with half a clue about global peak oil, knows that oil will not be affordable for the masses for much longer. Ferrari has more time than most car makers to change, since their car owners are wealthier and will be able to afford gasoline longer than the average person, but even that will dry up, and leave them in a situation where their company becomes the dinosaur that they tied their engine technology to, fossil fuel, an extinct relic of the past…

  • keith Gerrard

    It has absolutely nothing to do with any form of solution and all I have ever seen on 'Top Gear' was an obsolete motor mouth presenter doing everything he could to put down an already obsolete 'tesla' electric car, built in desperation for a dieing American car market. The Tesla people could not even get the gear box working for longer than 200miles on the original under full electric power and it now has only one forward gear. Like the volt it is already obsolete. The world public is the force demanding hybrid and electric vehicles, they want change and change is happening at an increasing rate. The motor heads have not one chance in hell of stopping it.
    At present they are costing the rest of use a huge amount by letting idiots like Clarkson hold sway in the brrm brrm media. It is this ignorance and greed opinion that has been directly responsible for the current economic recesion and is directly reflected in the criminal bankers that caused it. We must silence such people before they drag us right down.

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  • http://www.thepumablog.com Steve Puma

    The commenters who have said that Ferrari should not have to build hybrid cars because the electric motor is the way to go anyway are right on the money. Properly-designed electric sports cars will perform better in every category, except, perhaps, for range. (If we were to talk about racing, then this wouldn't even be an issue, because swappable battery packs would take the place of refueling stations.)

    Tesla has proven this, even though it is attempting to use design standard automotive industry design concepts, i.e. the Tesla is basically a Lotus when you remove its engine and battery pack.

    There are companies out there, like SABA Motors, that are working on “second-generation” electric sports cars right now, and these redesign the electric car from the ground up, without the baggage. Such vehicles will be over 50% lighter, have 1-second shorter 0-60 times (than current electric vehicles), all while being safer and cheaper (than standard vehicles).

    The most difficult part of building these new electric cars will be figuring out how to make them super-expensive, so that status conscious idiots will buy them!

    If Ferrari, Porche, Lamborghini, etc. don't make this change, then they will end up competing for who will design bodies for Tesla, SABA and others to come. Oh, wait, that's not even true…because Pinanfarina will simply do it, but in carbon-fiber, not in steel!

  • http://www.thepumablog.com Steve Puma

    The commenters who have said that Ferrari should not have to build hybrid cars because the electric motor is the way to go anyway are right on the money. Properly-designed electric sports cars will perform better in every category, except, perhaps, for range. (If we were to talk about racing, then this wouldn't even be an issue, because swappable battery packs would take the place of refueling stations.)

    Tesla has proven this, even though it is attempting to use design standard automotive industry design concepts, i.e. the Tesla is basically a Lotus when you remove its engine and battery pack.

    There are companies out there, like SABA Motors, that are working on “second-generation” electric sports cars right now, and these redesign the electric car from the ground up, without the baggage. Such vehicles will be over 50% lighter, have 1-second shorter 0-60 times (than current electric vehicles), all while being safer and cheaper (than standard vehicles).

    The most difficult part of building these new electric cars will be figuring out how to make them super-expensive, so that status conscious idiots will buy them!

    If Ferrari, Porche, Lamborghini, etc. don't make this change, then they will end up competing for who will design bodies for Tesla, SABA and others to come. Oh, wait, that's not even true…because Pinanfarina will simply do it, but in carbon-fiber, not in steel!