Starts with a spark

Maserati go electric: the iconic Italian marque’s Chief of Engineering outlines their electrified future
By Alex James Taylor | Travel | 6 July 2021

When Maserati released its new Ghilbi Hybrid last year, it had the same unmistakable sound and feel of any other car in the marque’s history, however it marked a vital shift: representing the first step in a plan that will soon lead to the electrification of all new Maserati models.

Designing without compromise, the innovation fuelling this change clicks with Maserati’s storied history of progressive adaption: founding brothers Alfieri, Ettore and Ernesto started their trade building Grand Prix racing cars for Diato, but when the company suspended this area of production the brothers formed their own marque; consistently pushing boundaries and records. Now, with both the Ghibli and their SUV Levante electrified, and more in the process, Maserati is racing towards a greener future. Looking beneath the bonnet, here Chief of Engineering, Corrado Nizzola, outlines the ambitions sparking the brand’s electrified future. 

GALLERYMaserati Ghibli Hybrid

Alex James Taylor: What was the starting point when the idea of hybrid cars was first spoken about at Maserati? And how long have you been working on these ideas for?
Corrado Nizzola: When we started thinking about this project the goal was to create a car able to deliver efficiency and enhance at the same time the performances. The Innovation Lab of Maserati is always investigating new technologies for the future and the evaluation of this Hybrid Propulsion System. The good technical results together with the critical discussion about the future of the Diesel engine drove the decision to develop a Hybrid for Ghibli and Levante. Staying true to its DNA, Maserati chose a hybrid solution that aims, above all, to improve performance, while also saving fuel. The outcome achieved is almost perfect: even greater performance, with less fuel use: the performance and the smooth response of a six-cylinder petrol engine and the low emission and consumptions of a six-cylinder diesel engine.

It was fundamental for us to keep the roaring sound of the Maserati engine.”

AJT: Maserati is renowned for the roar of its engine, how much was it a priority to keep this sound and feeling when switching to hybrid vehicles?
Corrado Nizzola: It was fundamental for us to keep the roaring sound of the Maserati engine. Ghibli and Levante Hybrid are Maserati’s in every respect, including the sound, which, in spite of the hybrid propulsion, is still the distinctive growl of every Trident model. We did not want to resort to amplifiers, therefore, by just tweaking the fluid dynamics of the exhausts and adopting resonators, we are able to deliver the trademark sound. For pure electric vehicles… don’t worry, in the Maserati Innovation Lab engineers are working on it!

GALLERYMaserati Levante Hybrid

AJT: Also how important was it to maintain the cars’ appearance when moving to hybrid?
CN: When igniting the spark of electrification, Maserati chose to start with Ghibli, as this model is the iconic Maserati Granturismo Sport Sedan. The exterior design philosophy was to respect the history of the car model, while also bringing it into the future of the brand through the introduction of several unique details both internally and externally. We focused on our most distinctive brand trademarks: the three air vents on the front fender, the triangular c-pillar framing the logo and the callipers. All these elements are characterised by a specific light blue finish. The blue colour, chosen to identify all the Maseratis with hybrid technology and the new world they represent. For the interiors, we enriched the seats with a specific blue stitching.

AJT: And in terms of speed and performance, were there any obstacles when switching to hybrid?
CN: Performance is always a focus point for both designers and engineers alike. I also believe that electrification offers numerous opportunities to improve the performance in new and creative ways. As an example, the Ghibli Hybrid weight distribution has been significantly improved compared to its internal combustion counterpart. Thanks to a lighter engine under the hood and the battery-pack in the rear of the car. The result was a vehicle faster than diesel and greener than both diesel and gasoline. 

The move to hybrid was extremely well thought out: the level of performance and sound reached are absolutely aligned with what a customer looks for in a Maserati.”

AJT: Were you surprised by anything relating to the shift?
CN: Honestly, Maserati’s move to hybrid only served as a reassurance that this brand is all about quality and performance. In perfect harmony with its DNA, Maserati has chosen the mild hybrid technology as a hybrid solution focused primarily on improving performance, while also reducing fuel consumption and cutting emissions. The move to hybrid was extremely well thought out: the level of performance and sound reached are absolutely aligned with what a customer looks for in a Maserati.

AJT: How much does changing to hybrid systems change your process of engineering, your equipment and your factories?
CN: The automotive industry is over a hundred years old. It’s a dynamic world that demands constant change and flexibility. Maserati’s process of engineering follows this philosophy, and is always in evolution following the development of new technologies and market demands. Just looking back at some of the past technical evolutions the industry has endured, we can recall the switch from carburettor to the injection, the new emission regulations, and most recently, the enormous improvements in the active safety area. Of course with every evolution, there is a need for new and improved equipment and as well new competencies.  Electrification will probably be the biggest change and challenge yet for the automotive industry, and the Maserati Innovation Lab is ready to deliver… Ghibli and Levante Hybrid were just the first steps in this new future.

AJT: Where do you see Maserati in the next few decades in terms of this shift towards electric?
CN: Maserati is innovative by nature and we are starting from our roots to build our future. Innovation has always been a muse for Maserati’s engineers and designers: it all starts with a spark. Ghibli and Levante Hybrid are our first steps, but there is a lot more to come. Next year we will present the full-electric version of our most iconic model, the GranTurismo! In general though, I see Maserati models being 100 percent developed, engineered and built in Italy. They will adopt hybrid and battery electric propulsion systems delivering all the innovation and outstanding performance typical of the Brand’s DNA.

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