Ferrari Patents a Mostly Conventional Hybrid System, Not KERS
By Justin Berkowitz
Ferrari's chief, Amedeo Felisa, evoked cynical choler when he told reporters last month that his company was working on hybrid technology for its V-12 cars, and that he was open to a V-6 in future Ferraris.
The latter seems speculative, but cool: The Dino, Ferrari’s first mid-engine sports car, used a fantastic-sounding V-6. A hybrid Fazza, however, is all but a done deal. A hybrid 599 concept appeared at the 2010 Geneva auto show, packing a V-12 engine and a Formula 1–inspired KERS hybrid system. Patent applications we’ve uncovered, however, show that Ferrari is planning a far more conventional hybrid system. Here are the differences:
KERS stands for Kinetic Energy Recover System. While most hybrid gas-electric systems in automobiles recover kinetic energy in some way, KERS typically refers to a system that uses the car’s brakes to spool up a flywheel; the flywheel, in turn, briefly holds the energy until the driver wants a short burst of added power. Typically, there’s no battery or transistor. In addition to Ferrari, Porsche and Volvo have experimented with KERS hybrid systems.
But Ferrari’s patent describes what sounds like a more conventional, non-KERS hybrid setup. Both a battery and a supercapacitor are listed as methods of energy storage. Two electric motors would be used, with one handling the propulsion duties and the other feeding the ancillary systems—air conditioning, power steering, and so on. By using a second motor, it means that all of those auxiliary systems don’t steal torque from the internal-combustion engine during acceleration. That should make for a more efficient system that doesn’t need to sacrifice performance. Ferrari has filed quite a few diagrams with this application, and some show the main electric motor in the engine’s V valley; others have it in the rear of the car with the transaxle.
One more important detail: The patent application describes the system as being set up in a car with a front-mounted, 90-degree engine. That means Ferrari’s talking California, as the V-12 cars have a 65-degree engine-bank angle. This isn’t set in stone, of course—if the system actually comes to exist, we imagine it would be engineered to fit in twelve-cylinder Ferraris as well.
We should end with the usual patent-app proviso: Just because any automaker has applied to patent something, that doesn’t guarantee it’s going into production. This is far more time consuming and expensive than applying for trademark protection on a possible car name—which essentially involves filling out some forms—but it’s still far from putting a car on the road.
Read more at Car and Driver:
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