Covid-19 hit Pininfarina's operations hard, but the 217mph Battista is still on track for 2021 deliveries
Nevertheless, Svantesson conceded that “maintaining social distancing while having technicians on jobs where two people are usually needed hasn’t been easy”.
He kept his full team at work, resisting any furloughs. “That was about the mental health of the staff,” he said. “We thought it better to have everyone in the office than at home.”
When the time came for high-speed testing in October, Automobili Pininfarina had to move swiftly. It had booked Fiat’s Balocco track, which was convenient for both its Turin base and Munich engineering centre, but Covid forced that into a temporary closure.
The firm therefore switched to Nardò in southern Italy, about 950 miles from Munich. This posed new logistical difficulties that it addressed by acquiring a fleet of EVs to run a shuttle service for people and parts in place of scheduled flights. “A few times, we tag-teamed drivers for overnight drives between Nardò, Munich and Turin, given that hotels weren’t open,” said Wollmann.
Some staff needed at Nardò for a long period, like chief test driver Georgios Syropoulos, were put up in apartments rather than hotels – another detail to keep the programme on course in the Covid era.
Nardò enforced strict Covid-safe regulations, based on the trackside rules adopted by Formula 1, which intensified the day-to-day activity on the Battista testing programme. According to Syropoulos: “Working around all the PPE rules, social distancing and personnel bubbles made the test track work that bit harder.”
This testing combined usual activities such as setting up the springs, dampers, tyres and aerodynamics with the newer discipline of torque-vectoring tuning, via fine control of the Battista’s four motors. And at the same time, the programme was run to WLTP homologation standards for providing range and energy efficiency figures.
“We may not have exhaust emissions and a combustion engine to prove out, but this isn’t a simple engineering programme. We’ve been very busy,” said Wollmann.
One important omission is hot-weather testing. This hasn’t been possible, given the ongoing international travel restrictions, so has been rescheduled for this summer, a few months before the planned start of Battista production.
To hit that deadline will be quite the achievement for a company of relatively modest size and resources.
Rendell, J. (2021). How to develop an electric hypercar during a pandemic. [online] www.autocar.co.uk. Available at: https://www.autocar.co.uk/car-news/industry-news/how-develop-electric-hypercar-during-pandemic [Accessed 12 Jan. 2021].