There’s been a number of battery electric and hybrid supercar concepts on the stands at this year’s Paris Motor Show. While the impressive performance stats of vehicles such as the Jaguar C-X75, the Lotus Elite GT and the Exagon Furtive eGT, shows automakers are closing the gap between the performance of electric vehicles and those powered by internal combustion engines (ICE), there’s still a trade off in terms of performance. However, even supercar makers like Ferrari can’t ignore the change in attitudes so, in an effort to add a tinge of green to its iconic red, the company showed a Ferrari California in Paris that is fitted with a new HELE (High Emotion Low Emissions) system designed to reduce the environmental impact of its supercars, while in fact boosting their performance.

At launch, the Ferrari California produced 299 g/km of CO2 on the combined ECE EUDC cycle but the addition of the HELE system sees that figure drop to 270 g/km. However, Ferrari says emissions fall by up to 23 percent in urban driving that better represents real-world driving.

HELE system

In addition to the California’s
Stop&Start; engine system unveiled at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show that restarts the car in just 230 milliseconds, the HELE system incorporates a number of new innovations and optimizations to existing technologies in the car to reduce its energy requirements and increase the amount of power generated by the engine.

The introduction of a brushless motor and continual fan speed control has allowed the Ferrari technicians to decrease current absorption and cut the system’s weight by over 2 kg (4.4 lb) as well as reduce aerodynamic drag by 5 per cent at high speeds.

To limit demands on the alternator, the fuel pump capacity is controlled constantly by the engine CPU, while intelligent air-conditioning compressor displacement control slashes the amount of torque absorbed by the system by 35 percent and makes for more efficient and rapid cabin cooling. Ferrari says these refinements result in a boost in responsiveness as, under normal running conditions, the engine is able to avail itself of an extra 25 Nm of torque.

In automatic mode, the gearbox CPU automatically identifies the driving style being used and adapts the gear shifts to match. For example, if it recognizes the moderate torque at low engine speeds typical of city driving it optimizes the gear shifts to cut fuel consumption. However, if a sportier driving style is adopted, then gear shifting becomes more high performance. There is also a pedal map for each gear to ensure maximum responsiveness to even small amounts of pressure on the accelerator and precise torque delivery.

Still some way to go

To put things in perspective, a
study by automotive data provider JATO Dynamics earlier this year found that the U.S. market’s average CO2 output for vehicles excluding pick-up trucks, full size vans and small commercial vehicles in the first quarter of 2010 was 255.6 g/km. That figure is even lower in other markets with Japan’s average in 2009 at 130.8 g/km and Europe’s five biggest markets averaging 140 g/km.

There will obviously be a difference in emissions between a Ferrari, which is designed primarily for performance, and the bulk of cars on the road, which are increasingly being designed for efficiency and lower emissions. But these figures show just how large this difference is. So, even though the California could in no way be considered a “green” vehicle, Ferrari’s efforts to reduce emissions are certainly welcome.

View gallery - 50 images