Tony O'Kane | May 24, 2009

A PATENT LODGED by Ferrari suggests the Italian automaker may be working on bringing a hybrid powertrain to market, which would most certainly be a first for a road-going supercar.

Such a system would also bring another significant milestone for Ferrari, as the patent describes a drivetrain that would supply power to all four wheels. To date, all of Ferrari's cars have been rear-wheel-drive.

Ferrari has outlined six different configurations in its patent, all of which see the electric motors driving the front wheels independently of the engine, which drives the rear wheels exclusively.

It also appears the objective isn't fuel-efficiency or even outright performance, but a design that features part-time all-wheel-drive without the mechanical drag and weight of a conventional AWD drivetrain.

Ferrari's patent describes a system that can be applied to both front-engined and rear-engined platforms, meaning it won't necessarily be exclusive to one particular model.

The exact configuration of the system isn't clear - Ferrari's submissions include wheels driven by in-wheel motors, as well as an electric motor connected to a common differential - but it's apparent that the company doesn't see it as an environmental initiative.

ferrari_hybrid_diag_02_s1The following is an excerpt from the patent application:

The aim of the present invention is to provide a four-wheel -drive vehicle with hybrid propulsion.

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

Obviously such a system would allow for an EV-only mode to cut emissions during city driving, but considering one of the key appeals of Ferrari ownership is the noise, we doubt many owners would ever opt for it. Besides that, there's been no timeline given for the introduction of a hybrid Ferrari and we doubt such a vehicle will be debuting in the near future.

However, when one of the world's foremost supercar manufacturers starts contemplating a hybrid powertrain, it's as good a sign as any that we live in interesting times indeed. We'll be keeping an eye out for any future developments


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