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Electricity adds zip to Ferrari's fastest

The SF90 Stradale is Ferrari's first plug-in hybrid electric car and a bid to win new, eco-conscious customers

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The most powerful Ferrari, the SF90 is propelled by three electric motors and a turbocharged V8 engine. It has roughly eight times the horsepower of a regular family sedan.

Fiorano Modenese

FERRARI is going electric to burn less fuel, but in characteristic style it's also using the technology to burn more rubber.

Some 2,000 shortlisted customers are descending on Ferrari's private test track at Fiorano Modenese over the next three days for a closed-door look at its newest contender in the fight for sportscar supremacy: the SF90 Stradale, a 1,000 horsepower petrol-electric hybrid.

At least two prospective buyers from Singapore are in Italy to see the new Ferrari. It accelerates from 0 to 100kmh in 2.5 seconds, goes from 0 to 200kmh in a breathtaking 6.7 seconds and can reach 340kmh.

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"This car is going to be faster than any Ferrari that Ferrari has ever made," said Enrico Galliera, chief marketing and commercial officer, at a press preview yesterday.

The most powerful Ferrari, the SF90 is propelled by three electric motors and a turbocharged V8 engine. It has roughly eight times the horsepower of a regular family sedan, but can also operate as a zero-emissions electric vehicle for up to 25km.

The SF90 (the name references the 90th anniversary of "Scuderia Ferrari", its Formula One racing team) is the second of five new models Ferrari is launching this year, as it kicks off an aggressive expansion plan that will see it introduce a further 13 new cars in the next three years.

Most of them will be hybrids, as Ferrari responds to the increasing pressure that all carmakers face to reduce their products' emissions.

The SF90 is the first Ferrari to use plug-in technology, which allows cars to run without fossil fuels by using a battery that must be charged externally.

The company has yet to have its fuel consumption figures certified, but at the SF90's press preview yesterday, chief executive Louis Camilleri said the company needs to "satisfy the demands of today's sustainable world".

Ferrari has flirted with hybrid technology before. Its LaFerrari from 2013 was inspired by its F1 racing machines, which are also petrol-electric hybrids. But that car was a collector's model made in limited numbers that customers could only buy by invitation.

The SF90 Stradale is a regular model, although it sits at the top of Ferrari's series production range. Effectively a new flagship for the brand, it will cost more than the 812 Superfast, its current horsepower champion and a car priced at S$1.4 million without options or Certificate of Entitlement. Ferrari will reveal prices only at the end of this week, Mr Galliera said.

Singaporeans will be able to see the car in September, when it rolls into town to coincide with the Formula One race. Early bird customers will be able to take delivery by the middle of 2020.

Mr Galliera said the SF90 is aimed at "innovation hunters". Its steering wheel has touchpads that allow the driver to control 80 per cent of the car's functions, and a 16-inch curved digital screen replaces traditional instruments.

The Ferrari uses electrification not just to improve fuel consumption, but to make driving more exciting.

The two motors that power the front wheels can each act independently, which increases the car's agility via an effect known as torque vectoring. Chief technology officer Michael Leiters said the system is like an invisible hand that helps the car turn, and makes it feel 200kg lighter than it is.

Altogether, more than 25 control systems help the driver make use of the car's enormous power output, he said.

Mr Camilleri said the SF90 could help to win new, eco-conscious customers to the brand, which currently sells 65 per cent of its cars to people who already own a Ferrari. But beyond that, the car could be seen as a riposte to a car market that is growing increasingly hostile to fossil fuels.

Mr Camilleri said Ferrari has the engineering depth to respond to upheaval that confronts the car industry.

"The unprecedented speed with which change is happening doesn't frighten us," he said. "We know a thing or two about it ourselves."

The halo effect of the Ferrari brand should help, as well. Most of the 2,000 people viewing the car at Fiorano this week have already ordered one. The Business Times understands that Ital Auto, the local Ferrari importer, has collected at least five orders from customers who have yet to even see the car.

As much as Ferrari needs electrified cars to safeguard its future, the SF90 satisfies those who feel that electrified cars need Ferrari.