Electrification of cars is happening all over. From basic auto start-stop systems like the one on the 2013 Ford Fusion to the plug-in hybrids and battery electrics, electric motors taking up the workload from internal combustion engines.
Even Ferrari has acknowledged the need for electrification at some level to reduce fuel consumption. They recently filed an update to a patent application that’s been floating around the European patent office for a couple of years http://bit.ly/HRtV18. Apparently they still take time to consider patents for actual tangible devices unlike software patents that seem to get rubber-stamped willy-nilly; but that’s another story.
Ferrari has been working on mild hybrid kinetic energy recovery systems (KERS) for it’s Formula One cars for a several years. This application looks like it might be an outgrowth of that work. It consists of two motor/generators to provide propulsion and regenerative braking. One motor is connected to the rear mounted transmission to propel the vehicle much like the F1 layout.
The second motor is where things get interesting. In most strong hybrid vehicles, manufacturers have adopted electrically driven air conditioning compressors and power steering so that they can still function while the engine is off either during EV mode or stop-start.
The layout described by Ferrari retains the belt driven accessories powered by the engine. The second motor/generator is driven by the same belt. When the engine is off, a freewheel mechanism on the engine drive pulley allows the motor to continue turning the accessories using power from the battery. When the accessory loads are low, the engine can also drive the motor/generator to charge the battery. This differs from the KERS system Ferrari used on its F1 cars which only had one motor. Since the F1 cars never shutoff the engine, there was no need to drive the accessories (namely the alternator and power steering) electrically.
This setup looks like it can have a couple of potential advantages despite the added mechanical complexity. Ferrari can use the same accessories it uses on non-hybrid versions of the car. That means they can stay with a hydraulic power steering pump which many enthusiasts prefer for enhanced steering feel.
The downside is that the accessories continue to be driven all the time unlike the on-demand electric versions on other hybrids. That means that parasitic losses are reduced but not by nearly as much. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out for high-performance manufacturers like Ferrari, Aston Martin and Lamborghini.
Update: I wanted to clarify that there is an error in the C&D story and most of the other posts it spawned. Ferrari did not ever race a flywheel-based KERS system. The Ferrari system used a battery and motor like most production hybrids. Only Williams produced a flywheel system for F1. This system has since been lincensed to Porsche and Audi for the 911 GT3R hybrid and the R18 e-Tron quattro.