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First drive: Ferrari’s greener California

California dreaming: Ferrari's California convertible can ease the conscience with a $2750 fuel-saving option.

Red brand goes a bit green with fuel-saving option on Ferrari California convertible

24 May 2011

THE first tangible evidence of Ferrari’s drive to be more environmentally responsible has arrived in Australia, where it will make the red-blooded Italian brand’s supercars more efficient than homegrown sports sedans.

Instead of being fitted as standard, however, powertrain technologies that can reduce CO2 emissions by up to 23 per cent and fuel consumption by 13 per cent are now available as a factory-fit option that costs $2750 on Ferrari’s entry-level California convertible ($459,650 plus on-road costs).

Australian Ferrari distributor European Automotive Imports (EAI) said the rollout of the Maranello maker’s ‘green’ technologies was in line with global policy, but expects most local California customers to tick the HELE option box.

EAI general manager Kevin Wall said Ferrari wanted people to use the technology to lower CO2 emissions.

“We expect the take-up rate to be high, not just because it’s cheap, but some clients may not want it – we just don’t know,” he said.

“Ferrari owners are no different to other drivers with a social conscience, so it could become standard by default.”

First revealed at the Paris motor show last September and available to California customers in Europe for about a year, the HELE (‘High Emotion Low Emissions’) option pack combines an idle-stop system with ‘intelligent’ control of the engine fans, fuel pump and air-conditioning compressor, plus a more adaptive version of the California’s seven-speed twin-clutch automatic transmission.

Later this year, the pack will also become an option on the 458 Italia coupe, which also employs a V8.

34 center imageThe HELE pack’s “intelligent” engine and transmission technologies are fitted as standard on the all-new V12-powered FF grand tourer, which has just been launched in Europe and will replace the discontinued 612 Scaglietti 2+2 here in early 2012 with a pricetag of around $625,000.

Despite commanding a similar price premium, the HELE pack won’t increase the efficiency of the newer mid/rear-engined 458 as much as it does on the front-engined California.

“Most brands have just one ‘green’ model, but this technology will be rolled out across the Ferrari range,” said Mr Wall.

As Ferrari revealed at the Geneva motor show in March, HELE components are claimed to cut the 425kW/540Nm 4.5-litre 458’s CO2 emissions by 15 per cent, from 307 grams per kilometre to 275g/km – 11 grams less than Holden’s manual Commodore – which is said to make it the cleanest sportscar in its segment.

The 338kW/485Nm 4.3-litre California’s HELE components are claimed to make Ferrari’s first front-engined V8 model – and its first folding hard-top convertible – to be even more efficient.

Ferrari says EU urban fuel consumption falls from 19.0 to 16.5 litres per 100km while the extra urban figure drops from 9.4 to 8.6L/100km, resulting in a combined fuel consumption reduction of 1.6L/100km or 13 per cent, from 13.1 to 11.5L/100km.

Even more impressive is the HELE California’s CO2 reduction, which Ferrari says amounts to almost 30g/km – from 299 to 270g/km.

That makes the California more efficient than direct rivals such as the Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 (315g/km), Aston Martin V8 Vantage (295g/km) and Mercedes-Benz SL500 (286g/km).

As EAI points out, however, the HELE option also makes the most affordable Ferrari – and the hardcore 458 coupe ($526,950) – more environmentally friendly than Australian-made performance sedans such as the Commodore SS (306g/km), FPV F6 (300g/km) and Ford Falcon XR6 Turbo (287g/km), not to mention load-lugging commercials such as Toyota’s HiAce (294g/km).

Ferrari’s new-found environmental conscience emerged in the late 1990s and was formalised in an ambitious five-year plan to reduce its overall CO2 footprint by 40 per cent between 2007 and 2012 – a goal it achieved two years early in 2010 with the help of a 210,000kW photovoltaic solar power plant on the roof of its Maranello factory.

The company says it has cut 30,000 tonnes of CO2, reduced particulate matter by 65 per cent and made its Maranello factory electrically self-sufficient by installing Italy’s largest tri-generation (power, heat and refrigerant) plant, fitting more efficient insulation, planting internal gardens, placing cooling ponds on roofs, erecting buildings with correct aspects and using roof fins to capture and direct light.

Now, however, to make further cuts to the CO2 emissions of its vehicles, Ferrari says it cannot simply rely on making engines more efficient and increasing power-to-weight ratios.

“To go to the next level we not only have to make engines more efficient, we must make the vehicle use that power more efficiently,” said Mr Wall.

“The idea is to reduce emissions while extending Ferrari’s traditional performance characteristics, because every Ferrari is supposed to be better than the model it replaces.”

Ferrari says HELE is the first in a series of new efficiency technologies that will emerge in future models, including cylinder deactivation, engine downsizing and hybrid power, as previewed by the petrol-electric 599 coupe concept at the 2010 Geneva show.

For now, however, HELE’s fuel-saving strategy combines an idle-stop system with ‘intelligent’ control of the engine fans, fuel pump and air-conditioning compressor, plus a more adaptive version of the California’s seven-speed twin-clutch automatic transmission.

Based on the same Bosch Motronic system seen in TCT transmission-equipped Fiat and Alfa models, Ferrari’s switchable ‘Stop&Start’ system is claimed to reduce fuel consumption and emissions by 85 per cent at standstill, and consumption over a heavily trafficked city route by up to 15 per cent.

Retaining the standard transmission’s hill-holder function during stops on slopes, Stop&Start has a ‘Quick Start’ function that starts the V8 in just 230 milliseconds when the brake pedal is released, and also restarts the engine when the accelerator pedal is pressed, the Up shift paddle is pulled, during parking manoeuvres and via the red starter button.

Meantime, HELE constantly controls radiator fan speed via the engine CPU using pulse wave modulation, reducing power consumption by a claimed 25 per cent, while lower-friction brushless motors are said to save a further 10 per cent.

The ‘intelligent’ fan control system is also 2.1kg lighter, with Ferrari claiming a five per cent reduction in aerodynamic drag at speeds above 200km/h as a result.

Similarly, ‘intelligent’ ECU-operated fuel pump control is claimed to use 25 per cent less power, while electronic activation of air-conditioning compression capacity – as dictated by the climate-control ECU and outside temperature – is said to reduce engine torque load by 25 per cent.

Finally, a more adaptive version of the California’s Ferrari-first dual-clutch transmission comprises gearshift patterns that are more adaptive to driving styles, recognising where savings can be made – and leading to a claimed eight per cent reduction in average revs in urban driving – allowing for enthusiastic driving where required.

In fact, Ferrari says that because the upgrades make the engine 9.5 per cent more energy-efficient and the vehicle five per cent more energy-efficient – for a total of 14.5 per cent – the HELE system releases an additional 25Nm of torque.

Officially, however, the California’s performance figures remain unchanged, with a claimed 0-100km/h acceleration in “less than four seconds” and a top speed of 310km/h.

“Once people drive it I think they’ll be surprised,” said Mr Wall, who added that the California has been a smash hit since it went on sale in Australia in June 2009, when a higher $472,000 price was announced.

As expected, more than 70 per cent of California buyers are first-time Ferrari customers and the California now comprises up to 35 per cent of local Ferrari sales, although the female take-up rate has dropped from an initial 15 per cent to just five per cent.

While the California waiting list remains out to February 2012, EAI says it has delivered almost 90 examples of the 458 since last June and will find homes for up to 65 in Australia and New Zealand last year.

With a waiting list of up to 14 months, the 458 has been instrumental in Ferrari’s Australian sales surge this year. So far in 2011 EAI has delivered 47 Ferraris in Australia – including a staggering 14 in April – representing a 42.4 per cent sales spike.

Mr Wall said the ballistic new 458, freer supplies and greater recognition of the Asia Pacific region, which now accounts for 31 per cent of Ferrari’s global sales (up from 19 per cent in 2005) helped EAI set a new record of 126 Ferrari sales in Australia last year – up 21.2 per cent.

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