Inside Lamborghini's self-healing supercar concept
Italian car manufacturer Lamborghini has introduced a new concept for an electric supercar of the 'third millenium' which it developed in cooperation with two MIT labs. Amongst its most impressive ability is its capacity to self-heal from minor damage to the car.
Dubbed as the future of the super sports car by Lamborghini, the concept was developed with energy storage systems, innovative materials, propulsion systems, visionary design and emotions in mind according to the company.
The release of the concept comes just one year after the Lamborghini inked a partnership with MIT, which brings the new technologies in energy storage systems as well as new materials to the table. On the academic side, this was led by the Dinca Research Lab and the Mechanosynthesis Group.
Instead of the usual batteries, this concept would store energy in carbon fiber nanotubes. This change in energy storage systems that MIT and Lamborghini have envisioned must however also be backed by new materials, which is why MIT has introduced carbon fiber materials to the car. The supercar's most interesting feature is however that it could potentially self-heal, locating small cracks and damages in its hull before they spread.
Using an array of sensors, the Terzo Millenio, which translates from Italian to Third Millennium, can perform its own health check, detect any damages to the car, and self-repair itself by filling cracks with nanotubes to prevent them from spreading.
"Collaborating with MIT for our research and development department is an exceptional opportunity to do what Lamborghini has always been very good at - rewriting the rules on super sports cars." said Stefano Domenicali, CEO of Lamborghini. "We are inspired by embracing what is impossible today to craft the realities of tomorrow."
Rather than using conventional batteries, the all-electric Lamborghini concept is powered by supercapacitors. This set up allows the Terzo Millenio to charge faster and to hold more energy than a regular battery, resulting in an extended autonomy. These supercapacitors would be able to charge within seconds according to the company.
These are made using carbon, which allows them to be formed into the Lamborghini's body panels since these are lighter and smaller than conventional batteries.
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.
Mircea Dinca, Dinca Research Lab
According to statements made by Lamborghini executives following the release of the concept, supercapacitors were also chosen as no battery system could hold the necessary amount of power to create a functioning supercar due to their large size and weight.
In this effort to optimise space and most importantly weight, Lamborghini has incorporated four different electric engines that each power a separate wheel. This were also blended into an electric design for the Terzo Millenio with each wheel lighting up in a red colour as the supercar roars through the streets.
Lamborghini has already used low voltage supercapacitors for the past five years in its V12 Aventador. The idea with this concept is however to develop a car capable of storing energy within these supercapacitors, regenerate kinetic energy and not be affected by the weight of an ageing system over time.
The Terzo Millenio's self-healing capability also derives from this structure with a reduced weight. By using carbon fiber, the Lamborghini will be able to detect cracks and damages through a self-check system as well as deploy the required healing chemistries through micro-channels in the structure to prevent cracks from spreading.
For the driving cockpit, Lamborghini has however an idea that may sound even more out of this world than the fact that the Terzo Millenio will be able to self-heal. The Italian manufacturer wants to make it possible for a virtual pro driver to drive the car automatically when it is on a track and for the driver to possibly just enjoy watching the real life video game experience.
There's no indication that Lamborghini has made any strides into developing this system yet, as executives say this model is about preparing for the future of sports cars. The concept, however, does imply that a technology to drive supercars by themselves is on the horizon. Whilst still remote, this goes in hand with the self-driving technology the likes of Google and Uber are developing at the moment.
Exactly one year ago we have signed an agreement with the MIT-Italy Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology which marked the start of a collaboration between two outstanding entities for the creation of a project that intends to write an important page in the future of super sports cars for the third millennium.
Stefano Domenicali, CEO, Lamborghini
Founded in 1963 by Ferruccio Lamborghini, a former tractor producer, the Italian manufacturer's initial goal was to produce grand touring cars capable of competing with established brands such as Ferrari.
After an initial successful 10 year run, Lamborghini sold the company to entrepreneurs Rossetti and Lemier in 1974, following the economic crisis of 1973. In 1980, Lamborghini went bankrupt and acquired out of receivership by the Mimran brothers.
The Mimrans heavily invested into the company and grew its product line. By 1987, they sold it to the Chrysler Corporation. Having introduced the Diablo, Chrysler flipped the company to Malaysian investment group, Myocom Setdco and V'Power in 1994. These themselves sold it to Lamborghini's current owner, Volkswagen in 1998, which developed the brand all through recent years.
The first concept Lamborghini ever presented was the 350GTV in 1963. Ever since, the company created a number of concept throughout its over half a decade of existence, most of these were, however, never put into projection due to low demand or impossibilities in production.
Rather interestingly, despite most car enthusiasts knowing what a Lamborghini is, less than 30,000 Lamborghinis have been sold since the brand was created. A small figure when compared to the 100,000+ electric vehicles that BMW sold this year, which represent just a small portion of their production. The price tag is, of course different, with some Lamborghinis commanding base prices of over €2 million.