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Electric Dreams

From the innovative hybrid powertrain found in the 296 GTB to developing its own battery technology, the electric revolution is firmly underway at Ferrari
Words: Jason Barlow - Video: Rowan Jacobs/Ollie McIntyre

“The first electric Ferrari will be rooted in our racing heritage and will draw from a broader technical reservoir while preserving all its authenticity and consistency,” Ferrari CEO Benedetto Vigna has confirmed. “And I have been happy to add my own technology knowledge, experience and network to the truly impressive work of the team, since the day I arrived.” 

Ferrari is aiming to be carbon neutral by 2030, and while it remains committed to internal combustion, a major pivot to electrification is under way. By 2026, approximately 60 per cent of Ferrari’s offer will be split between fully electric and hybrid cars. Indeed, a new building is currently under construction, a purpose-built facility that will mostly be responsible for manufacturing electric motors, battery packs and power inverters. 

This exclusive video charts the progress of Ferrari's innovation in electric power, with a glimpse of what is to come

And when it comes to electrification, Ferrari is staying true to its racing heritage - focusing on weight saving, performance and a unique driving experience, thanks to a process that will see handcrafted battery modules integrated into the chassis of cars on the production lines in Maranello.

Ferrari is also famous for the pulsating sound of its engines. Electric powertrains are largely silent and smooth in operation, which suits most automotive applications. But super sports cars are predicated on greater emotion and a satisfying – and organic soundtrack – is vital. 

This has been the lifeblood of Ferrari since the very first car rolled through the factory gates in 1947. So, Ferrari’s engineers are currently working on ‘sound signatures’ for its electric vehicles that will stir emotions and rival that famously produced by its combustion engines. Pretence is not part of the Ferrari modus operandi. At Maranello, they like to keep things real. 

The LaFerrari, launched in 2013, was the first Ferrari to feature a hybrid powertrain that put out a staggering 963 CV and propelled the car to 200km/h in 6.9 seconds

Not that the jump to electrification is being made in one go. With its deep roots in Formula One, there has long been a meaningful technology transfer between Ferrari’s racing activities and its road cars. F1 adopted the Kinetic Energy Recovery system in 2009; energy lost under braking was harvested, stored in a battery and redeployed. 

The first Ferrari hybrid road car arrived in 2013 in the guise of the formidable LaFerrari, whose distinctive orange high tension cables and dual e-motor configuration saw the carbon fibre-bodied hypercar augment its 800 CV 6.3-litre V12 with 163 CV of electric energy. 

In 2020 Ferrari began production of the SF90 Stradale, a supercar that hit 100km/h in a scarcely believable 2.5 seconds thanks to its combination of a V8 engine and 120KW of electric power

In 2020, the SF90 Stradale pushed things even further. The latest incarnation, the SF90 XX Stradale, is powered by a 4.0-litre, twin turbo V8 that produces 797 CV at 7,900rpm. But it also uses three electric motors, two on the front axle and one on the rear that somehow manages to find space between the engine and gearbox, to add another 233 CV for intergalactic performance. 

The SF90 XX Stradale can travel about 18km silently in e-mode, which is an uncanny feeling on the move and perplexes onlookers. But as well as enhancing efficiency and reducing emissions, the energy saved is also used to sharpen the car’s handling via torque vectoring. There’s also no reverse gear: that’s done electrically. 

2022 saw Maranello unveil the 296 GTB, a hybrid-engined berlinetta that combined a V6 internal combustion engine with a PHEV electric motor

And this is perhaps the key attribute electrification brings to Ferrari: the extra bandwidth. It gives the engineers another power source to exploit, and the resulting energy is vigorously networked around the car to enhance every aspect of its behaviour. 

Anyone who remains unconvinced should be directed towards the 296 GTB, one of the most persuasive hybrids ever made. Its 2.9-litre V6 turbocharged combustion engine sits in a 120° ‘hot’ vee configuration so it’s low and wide to optimise the centre of gravity. It produces 654 CV on its own. It’s hooked up to a dizzyingly fast eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox and an electronic differential, integrated with a rear-mounted electric motor that produces an additional 165 CV. 

This year the performance of the SF90 Stradale was pushed even further in the SF90 XX Stradale and SF90 XX Spider, which paired the 3.9 litre V8 engine with three electric motors to produce 1030 CV

In ‘qualifying’ mode, the 296 GTB can summon up a total of 830 CV, engine and e-motor blending seamlessly via an additional clutch that sits between the two power sources, decoupling them when the car is running in pure e-mode.

A high voltage 7.45 kWh battery feeds the e-motor. Ferrari uses a device called TMA – transition manager actuator – to oversee and optimise the flow of energy between electric and internal combustion, with proprietary software keeping it all smooth and instant. Two worlds in perfect harmony.