It looks like the Ferrari LaFerrari won’t be the only Ferrari hybrid in history.
Autocar is reporting that Ferrari is working on a plug-in hybrid that will be front-engined and offer a 30-mile electric-only driving range. How does the publication know this? Because it unearthed a patent filed by Ferrari in June 2015.
The patent doesn’t make it clear what the hybrid model might be called or what it might replace in the lineup (if anything), but Autocar does note that it could replace the F12 Berlinetta. On the other hand, the patent filing shows a layout that’s flexible and can be used for both front- and mid-engined layouts, thanks to slim batteries that will be built into the floor structure and an electric motor that will attach to the transmission, which itself will be mounted at the rear.
This flexibility could mean that a version of the upcoming entry-level Dino could use the hybrid powertrain. As it stands, the Dino is already expected to use a turbocharged V-6 mounted amidships.
Ferrari has a short but interesting hybrid history – the company’s first hybrid concept, which was based on the 599, debuted in 2010. The LaFerrari, which sold in low numbers in 2013, used electric motors to give its gas engine an extra enhancement. If this patent filing does indeed portend the future, it will be the first time Ferrari has made hybrid technology available on a series production model.
Ferrari is facing the same challenge that other small automakers that deal exclusively in high-powered sports cars are – namely, rising U.S. and international emissions standards. Building hybrids is one way to counteract the rule changes, especially as these models can offset the lower fuel economy numbers of traditional V8 and V12 gasoline-powered engines – the type of engines that normally are used to power Ferraris.
On top of that, the upcoming Dino is expected to be marketed to urban buyers – and urban buyers might have more interest in a hybrid Ferrari.
According to Autocar, spy photographers shot a camouflaged prototype in 2013 that’s believed to be a test mule for the new hybrid. The patent itself calls for a front-engine, rear-drive layout with two battery packs mounted below the floor plan and a rear-mounted dual-clutch automatic transmission with an attached electric motor.
Unlike the 599 concept, which used two small lithium-ion batteries, the patent shows a series of individual cylindrical cells, mounted together in a single layer (in a herringbone pattern) and built into the floor. Not only does this layout alleviate any special issues created by the rear-mounted transmission, it also gives engineers a work around for the fact that a large floor-mounted battery pack wouldn’t work in a car that will in all likelihood have seats that are mounted very low to the floor.
The patent details a “support matrix,” which Autocar speculates is what will allow Ferrari to mount the cells so close to the sill while still protecting them from the damage caused in a side-impact crash.
Each battery connection is referred to as a “disconnecting plate” in the patent, and it appears they are meant to disconnect from each other in the event of a side-impact crash. From the patent itself: “The chemical batteries that are displaced [in an impact] automatically disconnect from the electric circuit, thus reducing the risk of short-circuits or electrocution.
“Therefore, after the crash there are many chemical batteries not connected to one another, thus individually having a moderate electric voltage,” said the publication.
That last bit means that the risk of a driver or passenger being electrocuted in the wake on an accident is lowered, as each individual battery is weak, at least relatively speaking. In order to provide enough juice to power the electric motor, all the individual cells must be connected.
This patent isn’t the only significant one filed by Ferrari recently – Ferrari also has patented a new construction technique that could apply to all of its future models regardless of drivetrain layout. This technique would allow the company to build cars by attaching the front and rear superstructures to a central cockpit via a transversely-mounted bar.
Such a construction method would save on production costs and make repairs easier, while also saving the company on development costs. It’s almost certain that this construction would be accommodating of battery packs, thus making it easier for Ferrari to offer hybrids across its entire model lineup.