Should Ferrari Have to Build Hybrids?

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?

BC (Ben) Upham is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. He has written for the New York Times, and was a writer and editor for News Communications, Inc., a local paper consortium serving Manhattan. When he's not blogging on green issues -- and especially renewable energy -- he's hiking in the Angeles Mountains or hanging out at El Matador.