Ferrari Mille Chili

Published: 21 June 2007

The Mille Chili? So this is Ferrari’s green supercar…

Yes. Officially it has no name, but internally it’s called the Mille Chili (thousand kilos) and it’s arguably the most important concept car Ferrari has ever shown. Don’t be fooled by its shrunken-Enzo appearance. In revealing the car today at its Fiorano test track, Ferrari has lifted the lid on a series of radical new technologies – including a hybrid powertrain – which will cut weight, improve efficiency and help it make its case to lawmakers worldwide intent on imposing emissions limits which Ferrari can’t hope to meet. The concept shows how small and light an Enzo could be if it used all the technologies Ferrari is currently working on; the Mille Chili is around 300kg lighter and nearly a metre shorter. But it will never be made; it is purely a technology showcase. Ferrari claims that almost all the advances have their roots in Formula One, and all are being readied for introduction on different future Ferraris. Component by component, CAR Online exclusively reveals what makes the Mille Chili so important. Click 'Next' to read more.

Surely the Mille Chili isn't a real hybrid?

No. From 2009, F1 cars will be able to regenerate and re-use 60kW of power. The same system will be adapted for road cars from 2012. A battery and electric motor will briefly deliver a slug of torque to the rear wheels to cover the gap when shifting. By then, shift times could be as low as 30 milliseconds; even the current F430 takes 150ms. The result will be shifts as seamless as a twin-clutch, DSG gearbox, which Ferrari is also developing but remains sceptical about. Including an electric drive element would be a huge leap for Ferrari; engineers won’t speculate about developments beyond 2012, but this system could be the precursor to a performance-oriented full hybrid.

The bodywork looks the same as an Enzo's – surely aero is important?

Ferrari has been working on active aerodynamics with Imperial College London, and has come up with ‘synthetic jets’; openings in the car’s rear underbody about 20mm in diameter which open fractionally and instantly to alter the airflow, either reducing drag to improve speed and efficiency, or increasing it to assist braking and allowing the brakes to be reduced in size and weight. The technique hasn’t left the lab yet; it has been in development for two years, and the first road-going prototypes are around a year away.

That steering wheel looks heavier, not lighter…

True, but there’s nothing on the dash; you won’t be able to reach it. By fixing the seats in place, future Ferraris will lose at least 80mm in height and length; keeping the driver’s head in a fixed position allows a lower roofline and requires less space for crash safety. Windscreens can be shifted backwards, and all the weight of electric seats is lost. Instead, the pedal box and steering column give up to 150mm of adjustment, and a fixed steering wheel boss carries everything you need to control the car.

Do the engines get lighter too?

Not by a significant margin, but there are other radical developments planned. Ferrari learned about direct injection in F1, although it’s now banned. But it’s readying it for its new generation of road car engines, the DI system giving fine fuel atomisation and precise metering for a more efficient burn, and sharper throttle response. Reduced frictional losses mean a 6 percent improvement in mechanical efficiency, with another 3 percent coming from the gearbox, which can be made a third lighter. And future Ferrari powertrains will be able to run on bioethanol. Engineers wouldn’t say if power could be cut to give equal performance with lower weight, but stressed that power-to-weight and specific output remained Ferrari’s key criteria, and not outright grunt.

Won’t the hybrid system ruin the brake feel?

Ferrari is unlikely to let it, and the system's a long way off production. First, Ferraris will get Brembo’s second-generation CCM-2 carbon ceramic brakes whose increased friction will allow smaller, lighter discs – down to around 350mm from nearly 400mm in the 599 – and the elimination of the weighty, bulky brake booster. Less unsprung weight will improve handling and even allow smaller, lighter wheels, if the stylists and customers will tolerate it.

The Mille Chili's nose looks much shorter

It is. Much of the saving in length comes from using an F1-style carbon crash structure in the nose. It’s lighter than aluminium and can be made around 20 percent shorter because it absorbs energy more efficiently. Carbon will spread throughout the structure of road Ferraris as the cost falls, and this technology will soon filter down to more affordable cars.

Those wheels don’t look very real!

They’re not; this concept car is purely to show how much smaller the Enzo could be made; the focus is on the tech, not the styling. But the tyres will be new, super-low rolling resistance examples, and behind them will be F1-derived carbonfibre suspension parts tuned to the tyres handling characteristics and also cutting unsprung weight.

The Mille Chili's nose looks much shorter

It is. Much of the saving in length comes from using an F1-style carbon crash structure in the nose. It’s lighter than aluminium and can be made around 20 percent shorter because it absorbs energy more efficiently. Carbon will spread throughout the structure of road Ferraris as the cost falls, and this technology will soon filter down to more affordable cars.

Those wheels don’t look very real!

They’re not; this concept car is purely to show how much smaller the Enzo could be made; the focus is on the tech, not the styling. But the tyres will be new, super-low rolling resistance examples, and behind them will be F1-derived carbonfibre suspension parts tuned to the tyres handling characteristics and also cutting unsprung weight.

By Ben Oliver

Contributing editor, watch connoisseur, purveyor of fine features

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