2009 Ferrari 612 Scaglietti
The name Ferrari isn't exactly synonymous with fuel efficiency, so when we heard news of a four-wheel drive "hybrid" system from Maranello, it piqued our curiosity. Apparently the Italian exotic car company has applied for a patent for a design that uses an electric motor to power two wheels and a gas engine to power the other two. The new drivetrain could be applied to both their front and rear-engine vehicles.
The patent application shows six different layouts for the system. All of the configurations use an engine to drive a generator. The resulting electricity is stored in a battery which powers one set of wheels. Some of the plans show a traditional differential and axle moving the wheels, while others use independent, in-wheel electric motors.
Don't laud the eco-friendly aspects of the new design just yet though. Ferrari says that the hybrid system is designed to improve handling, not necessarily fuel economy.
Their patent application notes that, "The aim of the present invention is to provide a four-wheel drive vehicle with hybrid propulsion…and being at the same time easy and inexpensive to produce...The four-wheel drive that can be engaged enables the driver of the automobile to decide whether to use the rear drive or the four-wheel drive; in this way, the driver can use the rear drive in optimal conditions of adherence and can use the four-wheel drive in poor conditions of adherence."
Does anyone else smell a missed marketing opportunity (i.e. Ferrari's first ever "green" machine)? At least they're honest.