Currently reading: Ferrari's secret hybrid tech
Hybrid test mule breaks cover as Ferrari targets Co2 reduction. Could make production in 2015

Ferrari is preparing the world for its first hybrid supercar — and this prototype looks to be solid proof that the project is well under way.

The Maranello firm has been talking about a hybrid supercar since the 2010 Geneva motor show when it unveiled the Hybrid Concept, based on a standard 599. The firm’s goal is to develop hybrid technology to get its fleet average CO2 emissions down to around 240g/km by 2018, a significant reduction from last year’s figure of 310g/km.

See spy shots of the Ferrari test mule

Spied testing in Germany, this two-seater looks at first glance to be a ‘cut and shut’ 599 GTO, running as a mule for the all-new 599 due in 2013.

But its red-on-white German ‘pre-registration’ plates give away its identity as a test bed for Ferrari’s hybrid tech. Ferrari prototypes normally wear Italian ‘Prova’ identification plates, but those have been ditched while this prototype is driven in Germany to throw spy photographers off the scent.

Ferrari is keen to disown any knowledge of its hybrid prototype, but the ‘S’ on this car’s plates means it is registered in Stuttgart, home of German supply giant Bosch, which is thought to be helping Ferrari with the engineering and software set-up.

The cut-about 599 GTO body panels are covering up a well finished car underneath, whose details appear to mark it out as a California, Ferrari’s V8-powered coupé-convertible. The California’s headlamps, wheels, chromed wheel nuts, folding metal roof shutlines, brake caliper position and distinctive instrument binnacle can all be seen.

However, the revised arrangement of the test mule’s exhaust pipes is an important new detail. The standard California stacks its twin rear pipes on top of each other, rather than two pairs of side by side pipes as seen here.

That may be linked to new routings for the exhausts, dictated by the hybrid powertrain and its space-consuming battery.

Ferrari’s chosen design package for its hybrid sports cars can be seen in its patent drawings (see above right). It features two electric motors — a low-capacity one at the front to drive ancillaries when running on electric power alone, and a rear-mounted one rated at 100bhp and 110lb ft — with a pack of slim battery cells spread over the floorpan.

Although the hybrid electric equipment added 100kg to the kerb weight of the 599 Hybrid Concept shown last year at Geneva, Ferrari was confident that its on-road performance was improved, with 0-100mph in 10.4sec, an improvement of 0.6sec. Interestingly, the 599 concept’s centre of gravity — a key factor in determining a car’s dynamic ability — remained the same.

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Also under development are a super-fast traction control system that works by reversing the electric motor’s torque rather than cutting engine power, and an ‘electronic torque shaping’ system that feeds in small torque inputs from the electric motor during acceleration. This helps maintain momentum during gearchanges and is felt as a more linear throttle response. The California test mule is likely to be running this set-up.

Julian Rendell/Greg Kable

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