Lamborghini and MIT fire the EV industry into the third millennium with radical new ideas
Lamborghini is known for making some of the most jaw-dropping and beloved sports cars ever built. It’s now attempting to pioneer the future of EVs too.
As part of a new collaboration with two laboratories within the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the automaker has revealed a new concept design dubbed the Terzo Millenio. For those not fluent in Italian, that’s the “Third Millennium” and it does a good job of encapsulating what this project is concerned with.
In a statement, the company says that it is looking to address the future of the super sports car in terms of five different dimensions: energy storage systems, innovative materials, propulsion system, visionary design, and emotion.
Although the final two are rather subjective, the former three represent the holy trinity of EV innovation. The company is therefore financing work on new materials and energy storage at MIT’s Dinca Research Lab, led by Prof. Mircea Dinca, Department of Chemistry and the “Mechanosynthesis Group”, led by Prof. Anastasios John Hart, Department of Mechanical Engineering.
Automobili Lamborghini chairman and CEO Stefano Domenicali added: “Collaborating with MIT for our R&D department is an exceptional opportunity to do what Lamborghini has always been very good at: rewriting the rules on super sports cars. Now we are presenting an exciting and progressive concept car. We are inspired by embracing what is impossible today to craft the realities of tomorrow: Lamborghini must always create the dreams of the next generation.”
Supercaps for supercars
Its looks, of course, scream of futuristic promise. “The car must have a wow factor… otherwise we have failed,” explained design head Mitja Borker, formerly of Porsche. But it’s the technologies within the car that are truly worth looking at,
Perhaps most electrifying of all, the Terzo Millennio will not be powered by batteries. While Lamborghini notes that the industry is pursuing electrification, it argues that “today’s batteries are not enough and a big leap forward is needed.” Its line of investigation will therefore be into other potential technologies:
“The sports car of the future uses electricity instead of gasoline. Electric systems generate high efficiency and offer several interesting characteristics like the possibility to recover kinetic energy and to deliver huge peaks of power. In order to take the most from the opportunities offered by electrification, the accumulation system must be power-oriented and symmetrical, to allow high performances and the greatest energy recovery possible. To harvest this opportunity, today’s batteries are not enough and a big leap forward is needed: Lamborghini aim is to develop an innovative supercapacitor able to close the gap with conventional batteries in terms of energy density, preserving an outstanding power density.”
This is envelope-pushing stuff indeed. Supercapacitors are an exciting route for EV makers to pursue – especially in rapid charging applications – but their large size and low energy density have precluded anything commercial so far. Nevertheless, Prof. Dinca is optimistic, stating that: “The new Lamborghini collaboration allows us to be ambitious and think outside the box in designing new materials that answer energy storage challenges for the demands of an electric sport vehicle. We look forward to teaming up with their engineers and work on this exciting project.”
What’s more, the Terzo Millennio concept would see energy storage technology not as one facet of the car, but integrated into the structure of the car itself. Lamborghini intends to reduce weight and to increase the availability of energy using structural energy-storing composites as a rechargeable battery. This would see nanomaterials and CFK-based panels form the body and structures of the car.
These materials would also use new forms of technology to monitor the integrity of the carbon fibre structure to detect cracks and damage, potentially even to self-heal. Lamborghini states: “In this case a self-repairing process starts via micro-channels filled with healing chemistries, reducing to zero the risks of small cracks propagating further in the carbon fibre structure. This allows further weight reduction with increased use of carbon fibre or the application of CFK to high-fatigue parts.”
Worth the weight
In the powertrain, designers will also take advantage of instant motor torque, with propulsion delivered by four in-wheel motors. In this case, Lamborghini says the challenge for its team will be to develop a technology suitable to increase motor power density “to the level a 4WD super sports car deserves” – ElecTrans dreads to think of how much that could be – while keeping weight under control.
“The opportunities in terms of weight, aerodynamics and design are so huge that it worth investigating for feasibility of further development,” the automaker adds.
Naturally, a lot of this is hype. But nevertheless, a tie-up with one of the most prestigious universities in the world –and one which is already pioneering other forms of battery research – could offer some real, tangible progress in overcoming some of the sector’s biggest challenges.
Whether or not the beautiful Terzo Millennio makes it onto the track, Lamborghini has already succeeded in backing one of the most exciting projects we’ve seen this year, and one which may well set the bar for truly innovative supercar development for years to come.