Whispers of a production Ferrari hybrid model have been circulating for the past several months. Now, the Italian automaker validates these rumors with the announcement that they intend to show off a hybrid exotic at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show in March.
According to Ferrari Chairman Luca di Montezemolo, the hybrid prototype will be based off of the Ferrari 599 GTB - a 2-seater grand tourer that has been in production since 2006.
Ferrari enthusiasts already know that this won't be the company's first foray into hybrid technology. For the 2009 F1 racing season, Ferrari incorporated a regenerative braking technology (as did all F1 teams) known as the Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS). However, the KERS technology - which captures kinetic energy through the use of a flywheel - doesn't really make sense on production models, and likely won't be found on the Ferrari 599 GTB.
So what technology can we expect instead? Ferrari is still tight-lipped about the details, but a patent application filed with the European Patent Office in February of 2009 suggests that we might expect a "4WD system with hybrid propulsion."
This 4WD system minimizes much of the added heft of all-wheel propulsion by removing cumbersome transfer cases and driveshafts and replacing them with separate rear-wheel and front-wheel powerplants. The technology also allows for electric-only power at low speeds.
Clearly, a lightened 4-wheel drive system will do much to retain performance while conserving fuel efficiency, but is a Ferrari hybrid really a good idea? While specs for the vehicle have yet to be released, it's pretty much a guarantee that some power will be compromised in favor of electric power. Given that the legacy of Ferrari has been built on the idea of ultimate performance, it is understandable why many Ferrari purists are outraged by the idea of the introduction of hybrid technology into the brand.
Regardless, di Montezemolo claims the Ferrari 599 GTB hybrid "will represent a great path towards the future."
As of yet, it is unclear whether or not Ferrari intends to actually manufacture the hybrid. While the higher-ups at Ferrari may already be leaning one way or another, chances are that they are waiting to gauge the reaction of the vehicle's debut at the Geneva Auto Show. And perhaps, until we pass judgment on the idea of a Ferrari green machine, we should wait until Geneva as well.