A few weeks ago, there was an environmental protest at London's Heathrow Airport. All manner of strange beards lined up to scream at families going on holiday. Taking the kids to the Big Apple was no longer a cultural experience or even an exercise in family bonding-it was a crime against the planet, for which we would all suffer. By boarding that giant, farting bird, Mom, Pop and little Johnny were making a pact with Beelzebub.
The whole episode was largely self-defeating. Telling Dave the plumber that his annual holiday is a crime is unlikely to win him over to your cause. And the business community simply looked elsewhere. It was no coincidence there was a spike in demand for private jets as the protest gathered force. Rather than effect a change of attitude, the whole incident caused a negative blip in London's carbon footprint.
And yet, for all these bullying absurdities, there can be no denying that the environmental cause is gathering pace. The cars in 5, 10 and 20 years' time will be dramatically more efficient than those we drive today. The era of devil-may-care, gas-guzzling, 6-mpg hedonism is almost over. This is, I'm afraid, 'an inconvenient truth.'
Take a peek at internet forums and you'd be forgiven for thinking this is the end of the world as we know it. Our passion, our hobby and, for some of us, our livelihood, will be no more. We'll be forced to take up golf, or sudoku.
But I'm not so sure. The car industry is home to some of the world's biggest engineering brains, few of whom want to end up running a wind farm in New Mexico. Faced with the threat of extinction but armed with a gigantic budget, these brains will be sent into hyperdrive. They will find a solution, and that solution will be the friend of the enthusiast. We'll no longer be petrolheads, but we'll be driving fast and having fun.
The first rumblings of this benevolent revolution are already being heard. Even in the hallowed halls of Maranello. Ferrari, more than almost any other marque, is under threat. Its cars, however brilliant, are conscience-free. For every kilometer it covers, the F599 fills the atmosphere with 490 grams of carbon dioxide. A Toyota Prius produces just 109g/km.
The significance of this is not lost on the good people of Maranello. They are the proud custodians of Italy's crown jewels and aren't about to give them up without a fight. I visited the Fiorano test track recently, where, in place of an F1 demonstration or a few laps in an F430, I was treated to a lecture about the Fezza of tomorrow. Goodbye scarlet, hello green. The Prancing Horse is going organic.
If this sounds like a nightmare, hold on. "Ferrari has always been a byword for innovation," says general director, Amedeo Felisa. "Traditionally, our strategy has concentrated on power density and the power-to-weight ratio. Now we must focus on energy efficiency. We must rethink everything to create a new mindset and a new paradigm."
There will be active aerodynamics, solving the age-old conundrum about how to reduce drag while maintaining sufficient downforce. By using movable aerodynamic parts, you can have downforce only when you need it. Ferrari calls this 'active flow control.'
Maranello's boffins are targeting a 33-percent reduction in rolling resistance at 150 kph (93 mph). To achieve this, the car will be set up to suit the tire, just as it is in Formula One. Direct injection technology will lower fuel consumption and there's even talk of a return to turbocharging, while partner Shell is contributing to a Ferrari that can run on a high percentage of bioethanol (up to 20 percent).
There will also be a dramatic drop in curb weight. Ferrari has set a target mass of 1000kg (2205 pounds), which is a reduction of around a third compared with today's F430. To achieve this, there'll be greater use of carbon fiber, particularly for suspension components. A more reclined, fixed driving position-only the pedals and steering wheel will move-can reduce cabin dimensions, so the whole car will shrink around the driver.
Ferrari even showed a concept-made of plastic and cardboard-of how its future might look. The FXX Mille-Chili (1000 kilos in Italian) is like a mini-Enzo and, most importantly, it looks terrific.
Think about it for a moment. A lightweight, smaller, nimbler Ferrari. That isn't just a recipe for lower emissions (Ferrari's target is 250g/km), it also means a better, more exciting car
"Ferrari is like a woman," said Ferrari's president, Luca di Montezemolo. "You have to desire and want her." And on this evidence I wanted her very much indeed. Who wouldn't want a svelte, athletic lady who still goes like stink and doesn't cost so much to feed? Be in no doubt-green can be good.