The Transformation of Pininfarina From Design Firm To EV Manufacturer
Automobili Pininfarina’s Electric Future
Pininfarina’s history is a long and complicated one. To the cognoscenti, the lines of many of the classic Italian automobiles were penned by the firm, but their most famous designs today have transcended the domain of cars and live forever in popular culture. Consider for a moment that Pininfarina designed icons such as the Ferrari Daytona, Testarossa, and F40. That’s what you call a gold-plated resume.
Founded in Turin in 1930, the firm’s roots reach deep in design and coachbuilding, but its fortunes have always been tied to those of automotive industry. What you may not know is that the company expanded into automotive contract assembly for companies ranging from Ferrari to General Motors to Volvo.
In 2015, Mahindra purchased Pininfarina and set about creating an entirely new direction for the now Munich-based company. Mahindra is known in other parts of the world for manufacturing volume passenger and farm vehicles, but they’ve also been competing in Formula E since the championship began a few years ago.
Today, Automobili Pininfarina remains unabashedly Italian in style and the firm has launched their first vehicle, under their own name, the all-electric Battista hypercar. Named after the company’s founder, this will be one of the first EVs to invade the upper echelons of automotive performance and exclusivity.
The top-line numbers are simply staggering: 1,900 horsepower and 1,700 pounds-feet of torque. With an electric motor at each wheel, it’ll do zero to 100 km/h in under two seconds and reach a top speed somewhere north of 350 km/h.
Constructed entirely of carbon fibre, the Battista has a 120 kWh battery pack, sourced from the trail-blazing EV specialist Rimac, which is fitted between and behind the seats for optimal weight distribution. The company says Battista has a range of 500km and, with DC fast charging, is capable of an 80% charge in roughly half an hour.
What’s the point of a multimillion-dollar electric hypercar, you ask? Pininfarina’s strategy isn’t just to build expensive playthings for the wealthy. Rather, their plan is to bring their design and manufacturing expertise to a much broader audience.
Indeed, Battista will serve to be the halo car for the reinvigorated brand. Imagine a range of premium electric vehicles with the style and finishing for which Pininfarina is known. Just peer out the window for the moment and it’s clear that the world is in dire need of beautifully designed cars. Perhaps it’ll be Pininfarina that solves the problem of desperately clumsy crossover shapes.
I had the opportunity to speak with Gösta Henning of Automobili Pininfarina, who briefed me on their new hypercar and the direction of this reenergized company. “The name comes from the founder of the company, Battista Pininfarina,” Henning told me. “The company was founded eighty-nine years ago, so we are currently a startup with ninety years of history. We are entering the EV market and Battista is our ambassador for that, showing that even in the hypercar segment, such technology is possible and even very useful.
“Battista is our first project,” Henning said, “And when you look at just the figures, 1,900 horsepower to 2,300 Newton-meters, you see what electric power can do to a car. It’s just crazy. And the Battista transfers this into an elegant way and it’s whispering, it’s class, and it’s this design language which is truly Pininfarina. For the future, we think this will be good way of showcasing what we do. We will work further on certain products in the electric market and with the design and the experience we have at Pininfarina, we are quite sure that we can really make a difference and that we add something to the market that is really demanded.”
While every hypercar maker seems to be interested in pursuing lap time performance, Battista is not about chasing that last tenth. “When you look back in the history of Pininfarina,” Henning revealed, “It was always about the elegance, the GT kind of long distance driving. The Battista transfers this into the modern world. The car is a hyper luxury, GT everyday car, so to say it is ridiculously fast, but it’s not built for the track. It’s due to the battery, it has a certain weight and it’s not for every corner, but from feedback from the first clients, they are looking for something they can drive, that they can enjoy daily.”
That Formula E connection also pays particular dividends where it counts. Team driver Nick Heidfeld has been competing in the EV racing series since it began and he has nearly two hundred Formula 1 starts under his Nomex belt. Heidfeld’s responsibility with Batista is for all of its dynamics and who better to shape the car’s steering, handling, braking, and power delivery than a top-shelf driver with EV racing experience?
“We are quite happy to have Nick Heidfeld on board here,” Henning explained, “Thirteen years experience in Formula 1, five years in Formula E. This is something that is quite important for us to have someone around that has so much experience, with so much feeling. And he’s there from the beginning because he was one of the first driving in a Formula E and that just shows his ambition to have an impact on the electric future.”
Even before Heidfeld could turn a wheel in the real world, he was straight to work in the simulator. “He needed to adapt his driving skills because the car is just ridiculously fast,” Henning revealed. “And he needed to adapt his driving to the speed, to the weight. Having him on board is quite important from a technical point of view, from a driving feeling point of view, but it’s also the value of his experience that we love to have on board.”
With the best of partners in Rimac, that pioneering Croatian-based EV company, Pininfarina’s hypercar will indeed become reality. According to Henning, “The first car will come out of production at the end of 2020 and then we have a ramp up mostly with European cars. For the North American market, the first cars will go into production in the third quarter of 2021. Price wise, we talk about a price around $2.2 million (US Dollars), plus options. You will end up at a price of $2.6 million (USD), depending on your option packages you would like to have. You can have the car in full exposed carbon fiber, or painted in colors, and individual leather. We will see the first cars in Canada and in North America at the end of 2021.”
Battista will be one of the first EV hypercars on the ground and, while reserved for just a handful of buyers, it will draw new attention to electrics. With stunning cars like Battista on the horizon and Automobili Pininfarina committed to their long-term EV plans, our electrified future no longer seems that far off.