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Opinion 7

Ferrari’s new KERS system for the road

Probably the single most interesting exhibit at the Beijing Auto Show last week was an engine and a gearbox in a glass case on the Ferrari stand.

Visually at least Ferrari engines are no longer the works of art they once were because of all the ancillary systems and sensors that must be attached to them, but this one drew your eye to it for a different reason: it had an electric motor attached to it.

Were this an engine from its Formula 1 car, this would be no news as all F1 engines have been so equipped since the introduction of KERS. But this was a road car engine – a 6.3-litre V12 no less – similar to that used in the FF coupe and forthcoming F12 supercar, but with an as yet unspecified amount of electrical assistance. It is, in effect, Ferrari’s first hybrid.

opinions  Ferraris new KERS system for the road

It is also one of relatively rare occasions where lessons learned on the track really have translated to the road. Others include the carbon fibre monocoque, carbon ceramic brakes and paddle shift transmissions. Ferrari claims this system follows the exact principle of its F1 KERS equipment, even if none of the componentry is common. It harvests and stores energy that would otherwise be lost under braking, so it can be deployed to provide a short burst of additional and effectively free power when the driver demands.

So far so good. But probe Ferrari further on the subject and ask questions like how much power can it provide and for how long, or how much additional weight is added by the system and suddenly nothing is coming the other way. The only tantalising sliver of data it will offer is that it is close to its target of providing a kilowatt of additional power (1.341bhp) for every addition kilogramme of weight it adds. This is very encouraging as it requires only an extra 75kg to add slightly more than 100bhp to the engine’s power output. Given that in the F12 the engine gives 720bhp without any assistance, the potential output of a specially tuned version with KERS is probably enough to give Bugatti nightmares.

There is another advantage here. Whatever its output, Ferrari says its CO2 emissions are no less than 40 per cent lower than they’d have been had they tried to achieve the same output without KERS. And that is a staggering achievement.

opinions  Ferraris new KERS system for the road

So now for the bad news. This KERS system is rather dear. So expensive indeed that at present Ferrari can only consider using it on the next in a line of limited edition, ultra-expensive supercars that started with the 288GTO, progressed through Fs 40 and 50 to the Enzo. The Enzo successor is in an advanced state of development and will be shown next year, complete with a carbon fibre tub and body. Even with KERS its engine is unlikely to match the 987bhp of the Bugatti Veyron, but nor will it need to for the car is tipped some hundreds of kilos less than the two-tonne Bug, raising once more the spectre of Ferrari producing the world’s fastest road car, a title it has not held since the F40 made its debut almost a quarter of a century ago.

Ferrari says the cost of the KERS will reduce in time and anticipates being in a position to offer it on other cars in its ranges by the middle of the decade.

Add your comments

7 comments on Ferrari’s new KERS system for the road

  1. Racehound, 1 May 2012 09:07

    Beautiful……and the thought of having KERS in a road 599 with a sudden 40-80 hp boost is great. Its taken a fair time before KERS technology found its way from the track to the road. BTW, I was wondering earlier how much longer it will be before the 599 and Corvette morph into the same car! #:)

  2. Ray T, 1 May 2012 16:07

    Why do you need a sudden 40-80hp boost on a car that has 720hp?
    This is really pointless, and adds extra weight to the car.
    As for that 40% CO2 emission reduction, I simply don’t believe it.
    This is about exclusivity and justifying a ridiculous price tag. What next Ferrari, blown diffusers? DRS?

  3. Ray T, 3 May 2012 21:01

    According to Sniff Petrol, the system is being named: “MASSA-KERS”.

  4. Frank Butcher, 5 May 2012 04:49

    It’s just occurred to you that Ferraris are exclusive and rather expensive, Ray?

  5. Mario Carneiro Neto, 6 May 2012 04:08

    Here’s the problem with all of this: Currently, the only people who have the privilege of having a button labelled “KERS” at the reach of a thumb have the letters FIA printed on their driver’s licenses.

    There’s a reason for that.

    It is no longer the case (if it ever was…) that the majority of the owners of Ferrari road cars (or sports cars in general) are passionate about driving – not just owning – their automobiles.

    I shudder at the thought of the current crop of over exhibitionist people who tend to buy these cars having 720bhp + a little red boost button under the push of a thumb. It gets even worse when you think this technology will be added to less expensive cars in the long run…

    This issue has been raised before, I’m sure, but the problem I see in today’s sports car manufacturers is that they are increasing the outputs of their engines and the weight of their cars, and shoving a bunch of electronic aids that makes anyone into Schumacher.

    My dream is to see an italian company building a small, light, affordable sports car with a rev happy engine and no idiotic driver aids. I hope that’s what the Alfa 4C turns in to, and that’s what they’ve been promising. But then again we can’t call Alfa (or FIAT, or Marchionne) ‘consistent’, can we?

  6. Mario Carneiro Neto, 6 May 2012 04:10
  7. houcem, 31 May 2013 12:23

    Hi I am studying a resaeach on the running of the KERS systems , Who can help me ????

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