How Automobili Pininfarina engineered old-school ICE characteristics into an EV hypercar.
The first Pininfarina Battistas recently arrived in the USA, and to coincide with this momentous occasion, Automobili Pininfarina also announced a new retail partner in Dallas. The dealer in Dallas is the tenth of its kind across the globe, and these spaces exist to provide easy access to Pininfarina's customers who want to customize one of the 150 vehicles that will be built.
As a bonus, we were granted an opportunity to sit with Paolo Dellacha, the Chief Product and Engineering Officer for Automobili Pininfarina.
Before we move on, it's worth giving some background into Pininfarina's new car-building arm, created in 2018. The division was created because Pininfarina's founder, Battista "Pinin" Farina, was a victim of his own success.
You see, Battista found Pininfarina in 1930 in Turin, Italy. The company is best known for automotive and industrial design rather than manufacturing. Pininfarina soon established a reputation for being one of the best in the business, which meant he was always in high demand. One of his dreams was to build his own car, but once the design side of the business started booming, there was no time left to explore that idea.
That's why Paolo Pininfarina, the current CEO of Pininfarina and Battista's grandson, decided to finally make his late grandfather's dreams come true. It's not a first for the Italian design company, however. The Alfa Romeo Brera and Alfa Romeo Spider (the modern one) were designed and built by Pininfarina in Turin.
It's not the company's first attempt at building a car, but the Battista is the first car to be built under the Automobili Pininfarina banner.
Automobili Pininfarina wanted its first car to be a hit, so it needed talent. That's where Dellacha comes in. Not only is he annoyingly handsome, and beautifully dressed, but his resume puts most people in the automotive industry to shame.
Dellacha started his career at Ferrari. He spent seven years working for the Scuderia, beginning as a car test engineer (the guys who hoon the cars around Fiorano) and eventually working his way up to innovation manager, in charge of developing the 4WD system for the Ferrari FF. The same system is still in use today in the Ferrari Purosangue.
Dellacha then spent six years at Maserati, where he was the chief engineer for the Levante. And in 2018, he joined Automobili Pininfarina. Dellacha has all the necessary skills to build an EV that's as engaging as an ICE supercar. Let's not forget that Dellacha was deep in the Ferrari machine while the iconic 430 Scuderia was being designed.
As you might have heard, the Battista is built on the bones of the Rimac Nevera. We asked about this, and Dellacha told us this was not strictly true. "I would not call it a Rimac platform, but rather a Rimac and Automobili Pininfarina platform," said Dellacha.
The Italians use the platform but make enough changes for it to qualify as a separate entity on its own. These changes are a closely guarded secret, but we know that battery placement and weight distribution played a significant role in the development. The batteries are not mounted in the typical skateboard layout. Instead, the main battery is behind the rear seats, which results in a mid-engined driving experience.
The next big step was to find a way to include everything that goes missing once a car is electrified. Things like noise and vibration.
Automobili Pininfarina uses Suono Puro, which is a 432 Hz frequency. Scientists claim the frequency is both calm and uplifting, but it has many other benefits. The Battista plays Suono Puro through a 12-speaker sound system, and the effects it has on the driving experience are determined via speed, steering, torque pattern, and driving mode.
The driving modes include Calma, Pura, Energiza, Furiosa, and Carattere. In the Calma (Calm) driving mode, the noise plays softly in the background, using that soothing effect we mentioned earlier. Turn it up to Furiosa, and that same frequency will be played at a higher volume to induce vibrations in the cabin. Not the nasty kind of vibrations manufacturers want to avoid at all costs, but rather the positive vibrations we associate with internal combustion.
Hyundai recently patented something similar, but it wants to mimic vibrations by using motors in the seat.
Remember that this system was refined by Dellacha, who used to refine Ferraris for a living.
As for the handling, we asked Dellacha what system had the biggest impact on the Battista's performance. We were expecting him to say the eAWD system or the immediate torque delivery from the four electric motors that produce 1,877 horsepower and 1,696 lb-ft of torque.
"Active torque vectoring," said Dellacha. The key word here is "active." Most torque vectoring systems are brake-based, which means they can only scrub speed. If you're hooning into a tight right-hander, the torque vectoring system will brake the right inside wheel for a crisper turn-in.
Automobili Pininfarina's torque vectoring uses regenerative braking, which puts electricity back into the battery. More importantly, it can also accelerate each of the four wheels independently. So, in addition to using regenerative braking to slow down the inside wheel, it can accelerate the outside wheels.
What does this mean in real life? "We wanted everyone to be able to enjoy the car. From novices to experienced racing drivers," said Dellacha.
The torque vectoring exists to make a 1,900 hp car accessible. In other words, the vehicle is foolproof. You have to be a real spanner to crash this thing.
Out of interest, we asked Dellacha whether the grip levels had been tested. He was hesitant to answer at first, saying that it depended on the tires, road surface, etc. Or perhaps he doesn't want to give customers a figure to aim for.
But here it is anyway. The Battista is capable of pulling 2G in a corner. That's hugely impressive for a 4,500-pound EV hypercar, especially considering the Porsche 911 GT3 RS can do the same, and it only weighs 3,164 lbs.
In addition to all of the above, the Battista's allure is increased because only 150 hand-built examples will be made. We asked Dellacha to talk us through the ordering process, and he said that retail outlets like the one in Dallas were being put up to make customer orders easier. But each Battista customer is invited to come to the factory in Turin, which is the ultimate car-ordering experience.
We know what he means, as we've been lucky to visit Turin a few times. It's Italy's Detroit. You need to experience the Battista's hometown to understand what it's about. Take a tour of the famous Lingotto factory, and walk down the road to the famous Turin Motor Museum.
You know, get inspired by the architecture, vibe, and copious amounts of gelato.
Whatever route a customer goes for, Automobili Pininfarina will ensure that particular Battista is a one-off. Once an order has been placed, that specific configuration is locked. It can't be accessed by another customer in the future, not that there's a real chance of that happening since so few will be made. Automobili Pininfarina's personalization program is easily on par with the likes of Rolls-Royce and Bentley.
Obviously, we had to ask what was next for the company, and with two PR people closely monitoring the conversation, Dellacha couldn't reveal much. There are already future plans and rumors of an SUV dating back to 2020. It also makes sense, looking at Dellacha's history with Maserati.
Whatever the case, the Italian manufacturer is not in a rush to get there. It will take some time to build 150 Battistas, and Dellacha made it clear that Automobili Pininfarina will only ever compete in the upper echelons of the automotive industry.
Actually, compete is not the right word. The Battista is not the kind of car you buy instead of a Rimac Nevera. Once the retail price goes above a million, you buy both.